Posts by Dr. John Ray, monitoring food and health news -- with particular attention to fads, fallacies and the "obesity" war

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A major cause of increasing obesity is certainly the campaign against it -- as dieting usually makes people FATTER. If there were any sincerity to the obesity warriors, they would ban all diet advertising and otherwise shut up about it. Re-authorizing now-banned school playground activities and school outings would help too. But it is so much easier to blame obesity on the evil "multinationals" than it is to blame it on your own restrictions on the natural activities of kids

NOTE: "No trial has ever demonstrated benefits from reducing dietary saturated fat".

A brief summary of the last 50 years' of research into diet: Everything you can possibly eat or drink is both bad and good for you

"Let me have men about me that are fat... Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look ... such men are dangerous."
-- Shakespeare

These kids are all "obese" according to Britain's moronic National Health Service


31 October, 2012

Adults conceived via IVF are well-adjusted with a positive perception of their environment

There are incessant attempts by mean-spirited people to find something wrong with IVF so the facts below might help shut their stupid cakeholes for a while

ADULTS who were born through IVF are just as well-adjusted and satisfied with life as those conceived naturally, the first longitudinal study into IVF children's quality of life has found.

The only significant difference discovered was that young IVF-conceived adults had a more positive perception of their environment, including of their safety, finances and learning opportunities.

Melbourne researchers surveyed about 1100 adults aged 18-29, half of whom were IVF-conceived, measuring 26 life quality factors including satisfaction with relationships, medical treatment needed, sleep and moods.

The research also took into account the person's work status, birth weight and their parents' financial situation.

The findings were presented at the Fertility Society of Australia's annual conference in New Zealand yesterday.

IVF experts say the findings are an important validation that the procedure is safe for children's social and psychological health in the long term.

The first generation of IVF babies are now starting to have their own children, including through artificial fertilisation.

"The results aren't surprising, because there's no doubt these kids were wanted," said Melbourne IVF's medical director Dr Lyndon Hale.  "Common sense suggests that these kids would have lots of input from their parents."

The study was a collaboration between researchers from Monash and Melbourne IVF, the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, the Jean Hailes Research Unit, the Royal Women's Hospital and the University of Melbourne.

The mother's smile says it all

Bianca and Matt Smith's two children, nine-week-old Mason and 22-month-old Isla, were both long-awaited arrivals with the help of Melbourne IVF.  Ms Smith, 35, said that after years of trying to conceive naturally, she was investing her energy in raising happy, well-adjusted children.

"You long for them for so long. You spend a lot of money and time going through a lot physically and emotionally, and it's all worth it," Ms Smith said.


Why you may NEVER shed those extra pounds: Being overweight can flick a switch that keeps you fat forever

One of the most frustrating mysteries of weight loss is why the pounds seem to inevitably pile back on, following a successful diet.

Researchers found that being obese can reset 'normal' body weight to a permanently elevated level.

Tests in mice found that the longer the animals remained overweight, the more likely their condition would become 'irreversible', making it difficult to maintain meaningful weight loss.

Study author Dr Malcolm Low, from the University of Michigan said: 'Our model demonstrates that obesity is in part a self-perpetuating disorder and the results further emphasise the importance of early intervention in childhood to try to prevent the condition whose effects can last a lifetime.

'Our new animal model will be useful in pinpointing the reasons why most adults find it exceedingly difficult to maintain meaningful weight loss from dieting and exercise alone.'

The researchers used a new model of obesity-programmed mice that allowed weight loss success to be tracked at different stages and ages by flipping a genetic switch that controls hunger. Turning on the switch right after weaning prevented the mice from overeating and ever becoming obese.

Similarly, mice that remained at a healthy weight into young adulthood by strict dieting alone were able to maintain normal weight without dieting after turning on the switch.

However, chronically overfed mice with the earliest onset of obesity never completely returned to normal weight after flipping the switch, despite marked reduction in food intake and increased activity.

The new findings may raise questions about the long-term success rate of severe calorie restriction and strenuous exercise used later in life to lose weight, such as the extreme regimens seen in the popular reality television show 'Biggest Loser.'

Dr Low said: 'Somewhere along the way, if obesity is allowed to continue, the body appears to flip a switch that re-programs to a heavier set weight.

'The exact mechanisms that cause this shift are still unknown and require much further study that will help us better understand why the regaining of weight seems almost unavoidable.'

The research was a result of a collaboration between the University of Michigan and the Argentina-based National Council of Science and Technology. It appeared online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.


30 October, 2012

Flu jab ‘can halve heart attack risk’: Vaccine ‘also cuts cardiac deaths and chances of stroke’

Meta-analyses have to be done well to inspire confidence and we have no published data on this one.  Bias in the studies selected for inclusion is their besetting sin.  Still, the conclusion is reasonable.  Flu puts stress on the body and preventing it might well prevent heart attacks too

The flu jab may ward off heart attacks as well as offering protection from the infectious disease, according to a study.  Researchers found that the jab can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 50 per cent and cardiac deaths by 40 per cent.

They said the influenza vaccine could be an important treatment for maintaining heart health and protecting against cardiovascular events, such as strokes and heart attacks.

Cardiologist Jacob Udell and his team looked at published clinical trials on the subject dating back to the 1960s.  ‘For those who had the  flu shot, there was a pretty strong risk reduction,’ he said.

The flu vaccine provided an approximate 50 per cent reduction in the risk of a heart attack or stroke compared with a placebo after one year of follow-up.  The vaccine reduced the risk of such cardiovascular events as well as actual deaths from them in those with or without heart disease.

The combined studies examined a total of 3,227 patients, with an almost  equal split between patients with and without established heart disease.  Half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive flu vaccine.  The others received a placebo vaccine.

Dr Udell said the results provide support for current guideline recommendations for giving the flu jab to those who have previously had a heart attack, but for a different reason than simply reducing flu risk.

While the reason for the link is not clear, Dr Udell said that it may be that when people develop heart disease some factor ‘tips them over the edge’, such as plaque clogging arteries or lower levels of oxygen, as a result of the flu.  The flu vaccine may stop  this by preventing flu, or  by actually breaking up plaque in the arteries.

He said that  he believed a bigger study  would comprehensively  demonstrate the vaccine’s effectiveness to reduce fatal cardiac events.  The research could also boost take-up of the vaccine.

Dr Udell, a cardiologist at Women’s College Hospital and Toronto University, said: ‘The use of the vaccine is still much too low, less than 50 per cent of the general population.  It’s even poorly used among health care workers.  ‘Imagine if this vaccine could also be a proven way to prevent heart disease.’

Dr Udell carried out his  study with a team from the TIMI Study Group and Network for Innovation in Clinical Research.

The findings were presented at the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto.


Why traffic light labels on food will make us all fatter AND ruin our farmers

The great British breakfast is about to get a whole lot more complicated, thanks to a new Government-backed ‘traffic light’ food labelling scheme due to come into effect next year.

If you want to pour whole milk on your cereal — as millions of us still do — you’re likely to have to ignore a red label prominently displayed on the carton.  That’s red for stop. Milk, we are told, has too much fat.

It will be the same when we scrape a layer of butter onto our toast. Another red light: too much fat again. Fancy a rasher or two of bacon instead? Sorry, but you’ll have to ignore more red lights: one for too much salt, another for too much fat.

Or maybe you like to wake yourself up with a bowl of creamy yoghurt with some nuts or maybe some prunes. Well, tough. You could be looking at another three red lights — one each for the fat in the yoghurt and nuts, and a further red for the sugar in the prunes.

That’s before you’ve even left the house, and all for a meal that’s been getting people off to work — happy and well fed — for decades.

As my granny used to say, a proper breakfast, by which she meant porridge (eaten with whole milk and sometimes even cream) or something else substantial such as bacon and/or eggs ‘kept you going’, and she was right.

So will we really be able to trust the traffic lights, which will label foods according to the amount of fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories they contain.

Though the actual amounts of those elements per 100g will be shown on the pack, it will be the eye-catching and easy-to-read traffic light graphics most shoppers turn to for guidance.

Red, of course, the traditional colour for danger, means you should probably avoid it, or at least think again because the food has too much of something that the Government considers unhealthy.

Amber means go-ahead, but in moderation, while green is so obvious it will surely become visual shorthand for healthy eating.

It all sounds simple: surely this is the breakthrough so-called health campaigners have sought for more than two decades, which will allow us all to eat more healthily as a result?

Many food and health campaigners — people I often find myself in agreement with — certainly think so. But I don’t. Why?  Because I can’t have faith in a system that sees a can of Diet Coke and a carton of popcorn scoring green lights, the former because it contains little more than colourings and artificial sweeteners and the latter, of course, because it’s mainly air.

And I’m not alone — the nation’s livestock farmers feel similarly aggrieved.  To see so many of these products, together with the ham, bacon and pork from British pigs, being unceremoniously labelled with ‘unhealthy’ red traffic lights must be infuriating.

We ought to be encouraging shoppers to buy British farm produce, not to avoid it.

So the problem with this new system is that it isn’t so much simple as simplistic, and therefore, potentially, highly misleading.

Logically, most naturally produced fruits, for instance, would merit amber or red lights because they have a high sugar content.

Tellingly, the scheme’s proponents accept this and say we should ignore the red light for sugars on fruit. But what sense does this make?  If it’s acceptable to ignore one red light, how long will it be before we’re ignoring all of them, like reckless motorists crashing through a junction?

Equally, if it’s safe to ignore some red lights, how much faith can we place in those green lights: should we ignore the suggestion that they mean something is healthy?

But even more depressing is the fact that the new scheme, despite not yet having come into effect, is already lagging badly behind the latest dietary research.

The idea that fats, and saturated fats in particular, are bad for you is melting away faster than a pat of anchovy butter (red lights for salt in the anchovy and for fat in the butter) on a sizzling slab of rib-eye steak (red light for the fat in that, too).

The truth is our bodies need fat. Saturated fat is a key component of our cells, needed for hormone production and other biological processes. It also acts as a carrier for important vitamins and helps us absorb minerals.

Yet anything with fat in it, including omega-3-rich oily fish we are constantly encouraged to eat for our health, could be branded ‘unhealthy’ by the new traffic light scheme.

So anyone following the traffic light scheme too assiduously, avoiding red meat and other red and amber light foods, could easily end up short not only of essential fats, but protein, iron and key vitamins such as vitamin B12.

Teenage girls, a group that pays close attention to what they eat, and the elderly could easily develop serious dietary deficiencies such as anaemia, fatigue and even brain function problems if they follow the traffic light labels too closely.

Health campaigners have been hammering home their anti-fat message for decades, yet it cannot have escaped anyone’s notice that over exactly the same period, Western nations — with Britain at the fore — have been getting fatter than ever before, with rates of obesity and diseases related to poor diet, such as Type 2 diabetes, rocketing.

The reasons behind this are complex, but there is a growing body of evidence that the changes are linked to official dietary advice which, for decades, has steered people away from foods containing fats and towards foods containing carbohydrates — processed and refined carbs in particular.

While this has been good news for the food processing industry — and, by strange coincidence, so much of what happens with food labelling turns out to be good for the food processing industry — it has been disastrous for our weight and wellbeing.

As any GCSE biology student will tell you, carbohydrates are metabolised by our bodies into sugars, and it is the excess of dietary sugar that is thought to be doing us so much long-term damage.

There’s another problem with these carbohydrate-rich diets. All this cereal, all this pasta, all this easy-cook rice (all likely to be green light foods) doesn’t fill you up for very long or deliver what dietitians would describe as ‘satiety’.

As a result, there are probably two generations who have grown up always feeling slightly hungry and unsatisfied, making them the perfect customers for all those tempting, snacks between meals.

Once again, the food-processing, junk-food companies win out, while trusting shoppers, trying to eat healthily, will be the losers.  Because all those refined carbohydrates have to go somewhere, and normally they head straight to our straining waistbands.

The truth is that food processing companies love food labels, because they can safely own up to whatever is in their processed foods, knowing that the vast majority of us will simply never look at them.

And who can blame us?  Even a qualified dietitian, armed with a calculator and magnifying glass, would struggle to make sense of the bewildering complexities of modern food labelling. So will the new, supposedly simpler labelling finally catch them out?

Not a bit. The food processors can endlessly fine-tune their nutritionally impoverished recipes — cutting here, replacing there, tossing in another additive when the end result doesn’t look or taste very nice — to ensure they get lots of green and amber lights.

But that is something that farmers — the producers of natural foods — really can’t do.  Yes, they can selectively breed animals to reduce the fat content of beef or pork (removing flavour as they do so), but there’s a limit to how far that can go.

As for low-fat cheese and yoghurt, they’re the work of food processors (using skimmed and semi-skimmed milk), not farmers.

Our European counterparts seem to realise the importance of this more than we do.  One of the reasons the new scheme will be voluntary in Britain (that said, under pressure from the Government, all but one of the major supermarkets are committed to it) is that to make it compulsory would have required legislation across the European Union.

French farmers wouldn’t have stood for red lights on their meat or their beloved full fat cheese for a moment, and nor, I suspect, would the French public, who have been enjoying their rich but well- balanced diet for centuries, and — apart from a recent jump in junk-food related obesity — seem no worse for it.

I refuse to believe Mother Nature is some sort of dietary psychopath, and foods we’ve been eating happily for hundreds, indeed thousands of years, are suddenly to be considered unhealthy or even dangerous.

The recipe for healthy eating is very simple — avoid processed food and base your diet on fresh, raw, unprocessed ingredients that you cook yourself.

That’s why I’m so concerned about the new labelling scheme. Those red lights will unfairly stigmatise perfectly healthy, natural foods, while the green lights will offer false reassurance to consumers, rewarding the food- processing companies that make us fatter and sicker every day.

The whole idea should be stopped permanently at its own red light, before it’s too late


29 October, 2012

Dangerous herbal pills used to treat menopausal symptoms leave woman suffering liver failure

There may be something in this but on the available evidence one would have to render the old Scottish verdict of "not proven".  It must be noted that the vast majority of users are NOT harmed

Health watchdogs have warned of the potential danger of a herbal remedy used to  treat menopausal symptoms – after one woman became so ill that she needed a liver transplant.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is concerned about products containing black cohosh, a native American plant.

It is understood the woman, who has not been named, developed liver failure after starting to use it.  It has not been confirmed how much she consumed before becoming ill.

Black cohosh is the second most popular herbal ingredient in the UK and is used to treat symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats, poor sleep, mood changes and irritability.

It is also often recommended as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy – and is available in capsules in most high street chemists, health food shops and supermarkets.

Richard Woodfield, the MHRA’s head of herbal policy, said: ‘It is important people with a history of liver problems do not use black cohosh herbal products.’

The latest case reported to the regulator is suspected to be directly linked to the woman using a product containing the herbal remedy and an investigation is ongoing.

The MHRA said it had received a total of 53 reports of adverse reactions suspected to be associated with the use of black cohosh products – the majority involving liver problems.

Black cohosh is registered as a herbal medicine with the MHRA under its Traditional Herbal Registration scheme, which was introduced last year to impose more stringent controls. But in some cases, the MHRA has found it being sold as a food supplement at more than 50 times the recommended dose.


Kansas Students Stage School Lunch Boycott to Protest Federal Lunchroom Nutrition Law?

After students have been saying "we are hungry” due to new nutrition guidelines for school lunches that limit calories and increase fruits and vegetables, a group in Abilene, Kan. participated in a three-day protest against it.

The Salina Journal reports students at Abilene Senior High School against the calorie limitations in the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, which was signed into law by the president, refused to buy school lunches, thinking it would have financial impacts that would speak louder than words.  "The biggest way to get into someone’s head is to mess with their pockets,” freshman Gehrig Geissinger said, according to the Journal.

Here’s more from the Journal on student’s thoughts regarding the lunch program protest:

    "Participating in the protest was no big deal for senior Kae Brown, 17. Kae, who sat in the hallway nursing a soft drink during lunch period, said she usually doesn’t buy cafeteria meals but understands the motivation behind the protest.  "People complained there wasn’t enough food before, so I can see why they throw a fit now,” she said.

    [World History teacher Wendy] Sherbert said she’s proud of her students for peacefully protesting something they strongly disagree with.

    "They’ve been very respectful and quiet,” she said. "This is not about food, but about control, and what role the government plays — if the government should be a substitute for parents teaching their own children.”   "Most people have been supportive of what we’re doing,” Sherbert said."

It was a recent lesson taught by Sherbert on peaceful protests that inspired the students to take action with this cause.

Even workers in the lunch room aren’t necessarily in agreement with the new regulations. The Journal reported food server Kari Beetch saying that although they’re doing what they’re told, she believes "the amount of food served should be based on the individual. Every kid needs different calories.”

Although nutrition requirements and calorie limitations have been in the spotlight from the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act lately, the act also has provisions that provide breakfasts for students who need it and also dinners and meals over summer vacation. The dinners earlier this month were featured by NBC’s Nightly News.

It may seem ironic given the complaints surrounding the lunch program’s calorie limitations supposedly leaving students hungry, NBC reported in its clip that studies show students perform better when they’re well fed as reason for supporting the federally subsidized dinners.


28 October, 2012

Prozac pregnancy alert: Mothers-to-be on anti-depressants are putting babies at risk, warn scientists

One cannot evaluate these claims without virtually redoing their literature survey but I would be surprised if the evidence was anything other than epidemiological  -- and people who are already in poor health are probably more likely to be depressed  -- thus accounting for the results

Thousands of women who take anti-depressants during pregnancy are endangering their unborn babies, researchers have warned.

The widely prescribed pills have been found drastically to raise the odds of miscarriages, premature birth, autism and life-threatening high blood pressure, they say.

Harvard researchers believe far too many women are taking the drugs during pregnancy because their GPs are not aware of the dangers.

They also suspect that drug companies are trying to play down the risks because anti-depressants are so lucrative to them.

They focused on the complications linked to a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which include Prozac and Seroxat.  Between 2 and 3 per cent of pregnant women in the UK are thought to be on these drugs – up to 19,500 every year.

But the researchers have found that they increase the risk of a miscarriage by 17 per cent and more than double the likelihood of pre-eclampsia – high blood pressure during pregnancy – which can be fatal.

They also double the chances of the baby being born premature, or developing autism.  In addition, the researchers say, the babies are more likely to suffer from heart defects and problems with their bowels.

SSRIs treat depression by boosting the level of the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin in the brain. But the researchers believe that serotonin is also getting into the womb and harming the development of the foetus’s brain, lungs, heart and digestive system.

Dr Adam Urato, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Tufts University School of Medicine, in Boston, who was involved in the study, said: ‘I am absolutely concerned – very concerned.

‘We are witnessing a large-scale human experiment. Never before have we chemically altered human foetal development on such a large scale.  'And my concern is why I am trying to get the word out to patients, health care providers, and the public.’

Dr Alice Domar, assistant professor in obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, said there was little evidence the pills effectively treated depression.

She said GPs were handing out prescriptions for the drugs even though depression could be far better treated through exercise, talking therapies and even yoga.

‘These are probably not particularly safe medicines to take during pregnancy,’ she said. ‘We’re not saying that every pregnant woman should go off her medication.  'Obviously you don’t want a pregnant woman to attempt suicide.’

The researchers, who presented their findings to the annual conference of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in San Diego, California, have analysed more than 100 existing studies looking at the risks of SSRIs.

Their findings are due to be published next week in the respected journal Human Reproduction.

The researchers say that if women take the pills when they are trying for a baby but come off as soon as they find out they are pregnant, it may be too late.

Dr Urato added: ‘Many of the experts in this area receive funding from the anti-depressant majors. These experts continue to downplay the risks of these agents and to promote the benefits of their use in pregnancy.’

A spokesman for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said: ‘Clinical decisions about the treatment of depression are complex and must be made by clinicians in consultation with individual patients, regardless of whether or not they are pregnant.’


Medical studies with striking results often prove false

A statistical analysis finds that study results showing a 'very large effect' rarely hold up when other researchers try to replicate them

Given the excruciatingly bad methodology and childish logic of so many published studies, this should be no surprise at all

If a medical study seems too good to be true, it probably is, according to a new analysis.

In a statistical analysis of nearly 230,000 trials compiled from a variety of disciplines, study results that claimed a "very large effect" rarely held up when other research teams tried to replicate them, researchers reported in Wednesday's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

"The effects largely go away; they become much smaller," said Dr. John Ioannidis, the Stanford University researcher who was the report's senior author. "It's likely that most interventions that are effective have modest effects."

Ioannidis and his colleagues came to this conclusion after examining 228,220 trials grouped into more than 85,000 "topics" — collections of studies that paired a single medical intervention (such as taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for postoperative pain) with a single outcome (such as experiencing 50% relief over six hours). In 16% of those topics, at least one study in the group claimed that the intervention made patients at least five times more likely to either benefit or suffer compared with control patients who did not receive the treatment.

In at least 90% of those cases, the team found, including data from subsequent trials reduced those odds.

The analysis revealed several reasons to question the significance of the very-large-effect studies, Ioannidis said.

Studies that reported striking results were more likely to be small, with fewer than 100 subjects who experienced fewer than 20 medical events. With such small sample sizes, Ioannidis said, large effects are more likely to be the result of chance.

"Trials need to be of a magnitude that can give useful information," he said.

What's more, the studies that claimed a very large effect tended to measure intermediate effects — for example, whether patients who took a statin drug reduced their levels of bad cholesterol in their blood — rather than incidence of disease or death itself, outcomes that are more meaningful in assessing medical treatments.

The analysis did not examine individual study characteristics, such as whether the experimental methods were flawed.

The report should remind patients, physicians and policymakers not to give too much credence to small, early studies that show huge treatment effects, Ioannidis said.

One such example: the cancer drug Avastin. Clinical trials suggested the drug might double the time breast cancer patients could live with their disease without getting worse. But follow-up studies found no improvements in progression-free survival, overall survival or patients' quality of life. As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2011 withdrew its approval to use the drug to treat breast cancer, though it is still approved to treat several other types of cancer.

With early glowing reports, Ioannidis said, "one should be cautious and wait for a better trial."

Dr. Rita Redberg, a cardiologist at UC San Francisco who was not involved in the study, said devices and drugs frequently get accelerated approval on the basis of small studies that use intermediate end points.  "Perhaps we don't need to be in such a rush to approve them," she said.

The notion that dramatic results don't hold up under closer scrutiny isn't new. Ioannidis, a well-known critic of the methods used in medical research, has written for years about the ways studies published in peer-reviewed journals fall short. (He's perhaps best known for a 2005 essay in the journal PLoS Medicine titled, "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.")

But the scope of the JAMA analysis sets it apart from Ioannidis' earlier efforts, said Dr. Gordon Guyatt, a clinical epidemiologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, who was not involved in the work.  "They looked through a lot of stuff," he said.

Despite widespread recognition that big effects are likely to disappear upon further scrutiny, people still "get excited, and misguidedly so" when presented with home-run results, Guyatt said.

He emphasized that modest effects could benefit patients and were often "very important" on a cumulative basis.


26 October, 2012

Can cheese harm a man’s fertility?

This is just correlational crap and is based on self-report at that.  Because it has not been peer reviewed and published it is difficult to evaluate but it seems odd that the commonest index of fertility  -- sperm count  -- is not mentioned.  Did it fail to correlate?  I suspect so

The author has other articles on peri-natal defects and problems so one wonders what precautions she has taken here against experimenter bias.  Her study is certainly a long way from double blind

Cheese is very popular so if cheese is bad for your fertilty it is a wonder we exist at all

Scientist from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, the US, compared the diets of 189 men aged 19 to 25.  None were overweight - they were all very fit and did at least one and a half hour’s exercise a week.

They had each filled in a questionnaire answering how often they ate dairy products, fruit, meat and other types of food during a typical week.

The researchers also looked at their sperm including how fast it travelled and its shape.

They found that the sperm of men who ate more than three portions of full-fat dairy food a day was 25 per cent poorer quality than those who had less.

The researchers will present their findings this week at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s annual conference in San Diego, California.

Myriam Afeiche, who led the study, explained that the female hormone oestrogen in milk that had come from the cow may be affecting men’s fertility.  It may also be impaired by pesticides which find their way in to dairy products, she added.

'While it has been suggested that full-fat dairy products may negatively affect semen quality, very few studies have actually examined this question directly.

‘The association could be attributed to the high levels of naturally occurring reproductive hormones in commercial dairy products.

‘It is also possible that the presence of other compounds in dairy such as pesticides, chlorinated pollutants, and heavy metals could account for this relation.’

But Dr Allan Pacey, fertility expert at the University of Sheffield and Chairman of the British Fertility Society said men should not give up on dairy purely on the basis of this study.  He pointed out that even though the men’s fertility had gone down, they wouldn’t have any problems conceiving.  ‘Although it goes down, it doesn’t go into the red.’

‘A change of that magnitude for a man in a fertility clinic, we wouldn’t worry about that.

‘What I would say about diets is we don’t understand it well enough. I wouldn’t want to scare men out of drinking milk.’


HRT taken during menopause can protect women against Alzheimer's

How the worm has turned!  After years of HRT being demonized, it is now good for all sorts of things

HRT can protect women against Alzheimer's – providing it is taken at the menopause, according to  researchers.

A study showed women who began taking hormone replacement therapy within five years of the menopause cut their risk of the disease by a third.

But the findings suggest that if HRT is started in later life, it could give women a greater risk of developing the condition, leading some experts to believe there is a 'window of opportunity' when the benefits are maximised.

The researchers at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, followed 1,768 women aged 65 and over for 11 years, recording a history of their HRT use and the date their menopause began.

A total of 1,105 women had used some form of hormone therapy, the report in journal Neurology noted.

During the study, 176 women developed Alzheimer's disease, including 87 of the women who had taken hormone therapy compared with 89 of the 663 who had not.

The study found that women who began HRT within five years of the menopause had a 30 per cent lower risk of Alzheimer's dementia than those who had not used HRT.

The risk was unchanged among other hormone users who began treatment more than five years after the  menopause. And the protective effect was even larger in women using HRT for ten years or more.

But the risk of dementia among women who had started HRT when they were at least 65, which, depending on the individual, can be more than a decade after the menopause, was almost doubled.

The protective effect from HRT may come from boosting supplies of the hormone oestrogen, which is thought to play a key role in keeping the brain healthy, or the improvement in heart risk factors linked to HRT.

Earlier this month a study found HRT can reduce the risk of heart attacks and heart failure.

In the United Kingdom, women in their 50s are told to use HRT drugs short-term and for no longer than  five years.

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: 'Previous research into HRT has shown mixed results, but this useful study suggests the timing of hormone use may be critical for either raising or reducing the risk of Alzheimer's.

'More work is needed to understand this link and help women make informed decisions about whether to start HRT, but these findings could be important for guiding future research.'


25 October, 2012

Drug firms are 'risking lives by hiding bad trials and side effects of their medicines'

This is a routine claim but where is the evidence for it?  Some studies are legitimately not reported if defects are found in their methodology.  As a peer reviewer I have myself caused studies not to be reported by pointing out methodological defects in them

Drug companies are deliberately withholding the results of adverse clinical trials - putting patients at risk, an MP warned yesterday.

Dr Sarah Wollaston, a Tory backbencher, said pharmaceutical companies were burying bad news about the effectiveness and side effects of their medicines.

She is backing a campaign for a change in the law to force drugs firms to publish the details of all trials - good or bad.

The family doctor said such a move would save the NHS millions, because at the moment taxpayers fund medicines which may not be as effective as they claim.

Yesterday Dr Wollaston told MPs: ‘Missing data from clinical trials distorts the evidence and prevents patients and their doctors from making informed decisions about treatment.’

Norman Lamb, the care minister, agreed to meet campaigners to see what more could be done to promote transparency.

Earlier, Dr Wollaston told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the previous government had spent £500million stockpiling Tamiflu despite companies ‘holding back’ full clinical study reports about the drug’s effectiveness.

‘You have to ask yourself why is that being held back,’ she said. ‘This is hugely important. And it’s not just about wasting money. This very much matters.’

She called for all historic data to be published, adding it was ‘vitally important’ for patient safety.  ‘This really is a current issue,’ she said. ‘It affects patient safety and it’s wasting millions. If we could see a release of all the historic data...I think we would have a completely different evidence base for medicine. I think it’s vitally important for patient safety.’

Her campaign is supported by senior figures at the Royal College of GPs, the British Medical Journal, the Lancet and the Cochrane Library, which holds the largest collection of reports on clinical trials.

Other drugs for which campaigners say full information has not been made available include weight loss drugs orlistat and rimonabant.

Critics of the system estimate that around half of all clinical trials are never published in academic journals - and that trials with positive results are twice as likely to be published.

Yesterday in the Commons, Lib Dem care minister Norman Lamb told Dr Wollaston: ‘The Government support transparency in publishing results of clinical trials, and they recognise that more can, and should, be done.

‘Greater transparency can only serve to further public confidence in the safety of medicines. I am happy for my noble Friend Lord Howe or me to meet her and experts to discuss this important issue further.’

Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, denied drugs firms were not being transparent.

‘As the representative body for pharmaceutical companies in the UK, we take the issue that we are not transparent in our undertaking of clinical trials and causing patient harm very seriously,’ he said.

‘There has been much discussion of clinical trial data transparency over recent weeks, but we stand firm in our position that, as one of the most heavily regulated enterprises in the world, we do not seek to mislead or misinform.

‘Regulation of the industry is rigorous. In the UK, if a medicine is to gain a licence, then the complete clinical trial dataset relating to quality, efficacy and safety must be submitted to the regulatory authorities for approval.

‘We realise that there is still work to be done as we continually move toward greater transparency.’


Take a walk if you want to beat dementia

This is just the usual correlational rubbish -- and based on self-report questionnaires at that.  To state the obvious, it is maybe people who were healthier to begin with who did more exercise

Forget the crossword – going for a walk may be better insurance against developing dementia, say researchers. A study has found physical exercise, rather than mind-stretching activities, offers the best protection against excessive shrinking of the brain in later life.

Previous studies have found regular exercise can cut the risk of developing dementia by a third, while others suggest keeping mentally active with crosswords, playing cards and computer work.

Study author Alan Gow, from the University of Edinburgh, said the research provided objective evidence that exercise is critical for brain health.

He added: ‘People in their seventies who participated in more physical exercise, including walking several times a week, had less brain shrinkage and other signs of ageing in the brain than those who were less physically active.  'On the other hand, our study showed no real benefit to participating in mentally and socially stimulating activities on brain size, as seen on MRI scans, over the three-year time frame.’

Altogether, 638 Scottish people born in 1936 who had been involved in a long-term study of ageing took part in the research.

They were asked to fill in questionnaires aged 70 and were given MRI scans at 73.  They gave details about their exercise habits, ranging from moving only in connection with household chores to keeping fit with heavy exercise or playing competitive sports several times per week.  They also recorded any socially and mentally stimulating activities they did.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, found that after three years those doing more exercise had less brain shrinkage than those who exercised minimally.  They also had larger volumes of grey matter in the brain, showing that fewer brain cells had died.

Professor James Goodwin, head of research at Age UK, which supported the study, said: ‘This research reemphasises that it really is never too late to benefit from exercise, so whether it’s a brisk walk to the shops, gardening or competing in a fun run it is crucial that, those of us who can, get active as we grow older.’

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘While we can’t say that exercise is the causal factor in this study, we do know that exercise in middle age can lower the risk of dementia later in life.’


24 October, 2012

Organic fruit and vegetables are no better for children, pediatricians claim

Organic fruits and vegetables are not necessarily safer or more nutritious than conventional foods, a leading pediatricians group has claimed.

Parents who want to reduce their kids' exposure to pesticides may seek out organic produce, but science has not proven that eating pesticide-free food makes people healthier, the American Academy of Pediatrics said.

'Theoretically there could be negative effects, especially in young children with growing brains,' said Dr. Janet Silverstein, a co-author on the report.

Yet Silverstein, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, added that rigorous scientific evidence is lacking.  'We just can't say for certain that organics is better without long-term controlled studies,' she said.

The report was published online on Monday in Pediatrics and echoes a Stanford University study released last month.

That research concluded that while eating organic fruits and vegetables can reduce pesticide exposure, the amount measured in conventionally grown produce was within safety limits.

Since organic foods tend to be costlier, a good strategy for penny-pinching parents concerned about pesticides is to buy only organic versions of foods with the most pesticide residue – including apples, peaches, strawberries and celery, Silverstein said.

But the pediatricians group says higher prices on organic foods might lead some parents to buy fewer fruits and vegetables over all.

They fear this is not a good strategy since both have health benefits including reducing risks for obesity, heart disease and some cancers.

Parents should aim to provide their families a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whether organic or not, along with plenty of whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy products, the report says.


Republicans Move to Toss Out Michelle Obama’s Skimpy School Lunch Menu

Congressional Republicans are taking action against Michelle Obama’s school lunch menu, which was implemented by the USDA in August.

The modifications to the standards have left students hungry and dissatisfied with their lunch options, according to reports conducted throughout the nation. has reported about students protesting, a cafeteria employee saying she and her colleagues are barred from serving seconds and forced to throw away extra food, and the National Education Association stating schools should use tactics to "creatively engage and educate students” on the new requirements.

The Hill reported that Congressional Republicans are asking what U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is doing to fix the problem his department has created. Apparently his solution of having students eat snacks isn’t enough.

"[T]here remains great concern with the amount of food waste generated at school cafeterias, much of it brought on by requiring students to take fruits and vegetables rather than simply offer them," Reps. John Kline (R-Minn.), Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) told USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in a letter sent Thursday, The Hill reported.

"This is a waste of federal, state and local funds and is contrary to the law's goal of feeding as many low-income and hungry children as possible," they wrote. "Once again, we are aware USDA has attempted to address this situation by allowing greater choice in reimbursable meals, but students should not have to take additional food if they have no intention of eating it."

The response from some schools is to install "trash cams” to watch students throwing food away. So instead of changing the rules that aren’t working, they’re going to treat students like prisoners under surveillance.

Congressman Steve King (R-IA) has even introduced the "No Hungry Kids Act,” which would repeal the new standards and end the controversy.

As the controversy grows, Mitt Romney’s campaign has remained silent on the issue. Why?


23 October, 2012

New IVF screening can turn fertility clock back 10 years by  picking good embryos

This seems to imply that chromosomal count is the major reason for failure to implant.  I would have thought that the causes were more multifarious than that

An IVF process that could give a woman in her early forties the same chance of becoming pregnant as a 32-year-old has been developed by scientists.

They say the screening treatment could boost a 42-year-old’s odds of having a baby from 13 per cent to  60 per cent.

It works by picking only the embryos most likely to create a healthy foetus, slashing the odds of miscarriage.

Crucially, it also involves the embryos being frozen for at least a month after IVF to allow the woman’s reproductive organs to return to normal.

Scientists believe that the powerful fertility-boosting drugs given during IVF can harm the embryo if it is put into the womb too soon.

A woman aged 40 to 42 typically has a low chance of becoming pregnant with IVF and is unlikely to conceive naturally.

But US researchers from Colorado will today tell the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in San Diego, California, how they have boosted success rates to 60 per cent.

Patients will pay £2,000 for the test, on top of a cycle of IVF costing £3,000 to £4,000 a course. The process has already been used on 1,200 women in the US.

But although some British clinics have the technology to offer it now, many are concerned about the effects of freezing the embryo. Others believe women will be unwilling to pay the extra cost.

The US scientists claim their procedure is the most advanced of several being developed to boost pregnancy odds, and is the only one to have been through rigorous trials that have all shown the same high success rates. Called comprehensive chromosome screening with vitrification, it involves taking a few cells from a blastocyst – an embryo just five or six days old.

An ideal blastocyst has 46 chromosomes – 23 each from the sperm and the egg. The wrong chromosome count reduces the odds of pregnancy – or ‘implantation’ – and raises the risk of miscarriage. Only if the cells have 46 chromosomes is the embryo frozen.

Some women will not have good enough embryos and will never become pregnant no matter how many times they have IVF. The scientists say the screening could spare them the heartache of further costly treatments.

Dr Mandy Katz-Jaffe, from the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, said: ‘What we’ve been able to show is that a woman aged 38 to 42, if she has a blastocyst with a normal number of chromosomes, her chances of implantation are independent of her age. So she has the same chances of implantation – at 60 per cent – as a woman who is 32.’

Oxford academic Dr Dagan Wells, who helped develop the process, said freezing the embryo, known as cryopreservation, not only boosted the chances of pregnancy but produced healthier babies. He added: ‘The birth weight of the babies is essentially the same as babies conceived naturally, whereas embryos produced by IVF and transferred immediately, without cryopreservation, have a tendency to be of lower weight.’

But Stuart Lavery, a consultant gynaecologist at the Hammersmith Hospital in London and member of the British Fertility Society, said: ‘It’s controversial. To put an embryo through the freeze and a thaw is a bit of an insult. It’s a shock, and sometimes it will kill a few cells.’


Australia:  Experts concerned about the amount of fizzy drink we're consuming

And exactly what business is it of "experts"?

AUSTRALIANS are swilling a staggering 100 litres of soft drink a head each year - prompting calls for the fizz to be banned from home fridges.

Dentists say children as young as six are having rotten baby teeth pulled out after substituting water with sugary and highly acidic soft drinks.  Adult addicts downing as much as six bottles or cans a day are being left with mouths full of fillings and root canal work.

Soft-drink consumption has bubbled from an average 65 litres in the early 1970s to about 100 litres today, Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Beverage Council figures show.  That equates to 267 standard cans a year.

Dr Harleen Kumar, of Smile Solutions in Melbourne, said some young patients had up to four glasses daily.

The problem tended to be worse with teenagers.  "In my opinion, soft drink should be for special occasions only such as birthdays and going out. I say to adults to ban it from the fridge," she said.  "I treated one child who was decay-free and then started drinking a can of soft drink a day. He came back a year later with 20 cavities."

The industry says consumption is slowing after peaking in the 1990s.

Nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton said sugar-sweetened drinks pumped in calories without giving people a feeling of fullness.

Draft national dietary guidelines advised limiting added-sugar drinks, she said.

Australian Beverage Council chief executive officer Geoff Parker said soft drinks had been unfairly "demonised" in the obesity debate.

One in three soft drinks sold were diet versions with artificial sweeteners and no calories.

Dr Stanton said artificial sweeteners still eroded tooth enamel and maintained a sweet taste habit.


22 October, 2012

Kid Suspended from School After Mom Packs "alternative" drink in His Lunchbox

A school in Newport Beach, California—where you'd think they would know better—suspended an elementary school kid for the beverage his mommy packed in his lunch bag.

It was kombucha, a fermented drink made with tea and sugar that can contain trace amounts of alcohol. The increasingly popular beverage made headlines in 2011 when it (supposedly) caused a false positive on Lindsay Lohan's court-mandated blood alcohol testing. But the typical drinker isn't a blond alkie. Kombucha is a home brew favorite with the seitan-and-seaweed set, thanks to the a host of (unverified) health benefits some believe confers.

The California kid originally got fingered for the container his mom packed the tea in: a glass bottle protected by a foam sleeve. (Aficionados say the acidic tea shouldn't be packed in plastic or metal.) But when school officials found out what was inside the verboten receptacle, they freaked out. The kid spent the whole day in the school office. At one point they called in a police officer. The vice principal suggested that the kid may be required to transfer schools and tried to enroll him in alcohol abuse counseling course aimed at teens. Then the infraction was reported to the school district and the kid was suspended for 5 days.

The kid's mom got wind of what was going on and wound up getting the suspension revoked, but it's on his record and the school district may yet choose to take action.

It doesn't matter whether the tea is healthy or not, of course. Nor does it matter if I think it's a little bit gross. Just as with raw milk, the point it that people should be able to drink what they want—and make choices for their kids—without intervention by the cops, for crying out loud.


Children who suffer brain injuries are more likely to become criminals later in life

No surprise  -- but taking a survey of prisoners is naive

Young people who sustain brain injuries are more likely to commit crimes and end up in prison, new research suggests.  Injuries caused by trauma to the head can cause maturing brains to 'misfire', affecting judgement and the ability to control impulses.

The study, from the University of Exeter, calls for greater monitoring and treatment to prevent later problems.

Its findings echo a separate report by the Children’s Commissioner for England on the impact of injuries on maturing brains and the social consequences.

In the new report, Repairing Shattered Lives, Professor Huw Williams from the University of Exeter’s Centre for Clinical Neuropsychology Research, describes traumatic brain injury as a 'silent epidemic'.

It is said to occur most frequently among children and young people who have fallen over or been playing sport, as well as those involved in fights or road accidents.

The consequences can include loss of memory, with the report citing international research which indicates the level of brain injuries among offenders is much higher than in the general population.

A survey of 200 adult male prisoners in Britain found 60 per cent claimed to have suffered a head injury, the report notes.

It also acknowledges there may be underlying risk factors for brain injury and offending behaviour but says improving treatment and introducing screening for young offenders would deliver significant benefits in terms of reducing crime and saving public money.

Professor Williams said: 'The young brain, being a work in progress, is prone to "risk taking". And so it is more vulnerable to getting injured in the first place, and suffering subtle to more severe problems in attention, concentration and managing one’s mood and behaviour.'

He added that brain injury is rarely considered by criminal justice professionals when assessing the rehabilitative needs of an offender.

'Yet brain injury has been shown to be a condition that may increase the risk of offending, and it is also a strong "marker" for other key factors that indicate risk for offending,' he said.

The report from the Children’s Commissioner is based on a review of futher published evidence from the University of Exeter and the University of Birmingham.

It says a large number of young people in custody in England tend to have a significant degree of neurodevelopmental disorders compared to the general population.

This could lead to communication and learning difficulties and emotional and behavioural problems, it says.

Many young offenders are said to have a reading age below that of criminal responsibility, which is aged 10 in England and Wales.

Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England, has called on government, the judiciary and others in the youth justice system to identify neurodevelopmental conditions in young people more rapidly.

She said: 'Our failure to identify [these] disorders and put in place measures to prevent young people with such conditions from offending is a tragedy.

'It affects the victims of their crimes, the children themselves, their families, the services seeking to change offenders’ lives for the better, and wider society.

'Although children who have neurodevelopmental disorders and/or who have suffered brain injuries may know the difference between right and wrong, they may not understand the consequences of their actions, the processes they then go through in courts or custody, nor have the means to address their behaviour to avoid reoffending.'


21 October, 2012

Diets high in potatoes and sugar may raise the risk of Alzheimer's

Rosebud is good at speculation but is no critical thinker.  Just the fact that the poor are more likely to go to McDonald's could account for the results below.  Poor Rosebud

Older people who eat a diet high in carbohydrates are four times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment - a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.

New research from the prestigious Mayo Clinic in America has found the risk is also higher with a diet high in sugar.

On the other hand, proteins and fats appear to offer some protection – people who consumed plenty of them are less likely to suffer cognitive decline.

Not everyone with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) develops Alzheimer's disease, but many do, said lead author Rosebud Roberts, a professor in the department of epidemiology at the Mayo Clinic.


MCI is defined as memory loss apparent to the individual and those around them, but with an absence of other dementia symptoms such as changes in personality and mood.

There are currently 800,000 people with dementia in the UK and 60,000 deaths a year are directly attributable to it, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. It’s estimated around six per cent of us will develop MCI.

The Mayo Clinic research tracked 1,230 people ages 70 to 89 and asked them to provide information on what they ate the previous year.

Among that group, only the 940 people who showed no signs of cognitive impairment were asked to return for follow-ups every 15 months.

By the study's fourth year, 200 of the 940 were beginning to show mild cognitive impairment - problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment.

Compared with the 20 per cent of people with the lowest carbohydrate consumption, the 20 per with the highest had a 3.68 times greater risk of MCI, the study found.

‘If we can stop people from developing MCI, we hope we can stop people from developing dementia. Once you hit the dementia stage, it's irreversible,’ Professor Roberts told USA Today.


Cellphones CAN cause brain tumours, Italian court rules in landmark case

It appears that they listened to "experts" rather than the scientific evidence.  Like anything popular, cellphones will alwayd be demonized by elitists

A court has ruled that mobile phones can give you cancer in a landmark case that could open the gates for other victims to take legal action.

Businessman Innocente Marcolini, 60, was diagnosed with a brain tumour after using his mobile phone at work for up to six hours a day for 12 years.

Italy's Supreme Court found that there was a 'causal link' between his phone use and his illness.

Experts now predict a barrage of legal claims by victims who believe their own illness was caused by their use of mobile phones.

Mr Marcolini told The Sun newspaper: 'This is significant for very many people. I wanted this problem to become public because many people still do not know the risks.

'I was on the phone, usually the mobile, for at least five or six hours every day at work. I wanted it recognised that there was a link between my illness and the use of mobile and cordless phones.   'Parents need to know their children are at risk of this illness.'

Oncologist and professor of environmental mutagenesis Angelo Gino Levis and neurosurgeon Dr Giuseppe Grasso gave evidence supporting Mr Marcolini's claim.

They argued that mobile and cordless phones emit electromagnetic radiation causing damage to cells and increasing the risk of tumours. But they added that many tumours don't appear for 15 years making short-term studies on mobile phone use redundant.

The jury is still out, however, for many scientists who claim it is still unknown what, if any, link there is between mobiles and brain tumours.

Earlier on this month, a Danish study on more than 358,000 mobile users over 18-years-old found that those who used mobile phones for 10 years or more were no more at risk than those who never used them.

Researchers led by the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen found cancer rates in the central nervous system were almost the same in both long-term mobile phone users and non-users.

But other scientists disagreed, saying the Danish study excluded business users and included as non-users people who began using mobiles later on.

Denis Henshaw, Emeritus Professor of Human Radiation Effects, Bristol University said the study was 'worthless', and the researchers themselves admitted non-users may have been misclassified which would bias the findings.

He said: 'This seriously flawed study misleads the public and decision makers about the safety of mobile phone use.'

Professor Henshaw has previously advocated cigarette-style warnings on mobile phone packets and urges more independent research.

He said: 'Vast numbers of people are using mobile phones and they could be a time bomb of health problems - not just brain tumours, but also fertility, which would be a serious public health issue.

'The health effects of smoking alcohol and air pollution are well known and well talked about, and it's entirely reasonable we should be openly discussing the evidence for this, but it is not happening.  'We want to close the door before the horse has bolted.'

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) rang alarm bells last year when it classified mobile phones as 'possibly carginogenic'.

In April, The Children with Cancer conference highlighted figures published by the Office of National Statistics, which showed a 50 per cent increase in frontal and temporal lobe tumours between 1999 and 2009.

The ONS figures showed that the incident rate has risen from two to three per 100,000 people since 1999, while figures from Bordeaux Segalen University showed a one to two per cent annual increase in brain cancers in children.

But earlier this year another study by Manchester University researchers found no statistically significant change in rates of newly diagnosed brain cancers in England between 1998 and 2007 - saying it was unlikely 'we are on the forefront of a brain cancer epidemic'.


20 October, 2012

A deadly outbreak of misinformation

* Compounding pharmacies: heroes or outlaws? – NBC News

* Compounding pharmacies highlight need for government to regulate business – Forbes

* Meningitis outbreak sheds light on compounding drugs and lack of regulation – Fox News

These alarming headlines refer to the deadly fungal meningitis outbreak allegedly traced to contaminated prescription injections used to treat back pain. Not surprisingly, the media is ignoring pertinent facts of the case while scaring the public into believing that greater FDA regulation is necessary to protect us from small-scale pharmacists who "concoct” poisonous toxins. Yet the demands for regulation are unwarranted, based on fearful emotion rather than facts. Upon inspecting the statements from both the CDC and FDA, one discovers a startling series of glaring omissions and cover-ups. First, there may not be an outbreak of fungal meningitis. Second, the alleged cases of fungal meningitis have not been conclusively linked to the implicated pharmacy, which, thanks to fear-mongering, is now permanently out of business.

No evidence of an outbreak

"Meningitis” refers to inflammation of the meninges, the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis may result from microbial infections (bacteria, viruses, fungi, or eukaryotic parasites), or from non-infectious immunodeficiency related to cancer and anti-inflammatory medicines. The condition is serious and can be life-threatening due to the proximity between the meninges and the central nervous system.

Since late September, 200 cases of illness and 15 deaths spanning 13 states have been attributed to methylprednisolone acetate, a steroidal injection packaged by New England Compounding Center. An additional 13,000 people are claimed to be at risk of exposure. Accordingly, regulators recalled and confiscated all 1,200 products from this facility and shut down the company for investigation.

The first reported case of fungal meningitis was detected in a patient in Tennessee, whose cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tested positive for Aspergillus fumigatus mold 46 days after receiving a steroid injection. Shortly thereafter, when eight other patients displayed meningitis-like symptoms, the media began reporting a fungal meningitis "outbreak.”

But according to the CDC’s own Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the investigation "had identified an additional eight patients with clinically diagnosed, culture-negative meningitis: seven in Tennessee and one in North Carolina.” Culture-negative means that microorganisms were not detected in the patient samples; the patients were not conclusively infected with mold!

But at this point the meningitis scare had taken off, and the powers-that-be needed an alternative means of proving that the outbreak was real. To assign the diagnosis, "Clinical meningitis was defined as having one or more symptoms (e.g., headache, fever, stiff neck, or photophobia)and CSF pleocytosis (more than five white blood cells per µL, adjusting for presence of red blood cells), regardless of CSF protein and glucose levels.”

Remarkably, the patients’ CSF lab results were assessed using reference ranges in opposition to the government’s own diagnostic criteria for fungal meningitis.

First, fungal meningitis presents with a marked increase in lymphocytes, the type of white blood cells involved in our adaptive (memory) immune response. In contrast, bacterial meningitis presents with a marked increase in neutrophils, the type of white blood cells involved in phagocytosis, or the consumption and destruction of bacteria as part of the innate immune response. Strikingly, neutrophils do not interact with Aspergillus, the mold implicated in the outbreak. The patients sampled in the alleged outbreak showed increased neutrophils, not lymphocytes, nearly excluding the diagnosis of fungal meningitis.

Second, the CSF of true fungal meningitis patients shows a decrease in glucose levels (less than 40 mg/dL). In contrast, the patients sampled in the alleged outbreak display glucose levels ranging up to 121 mg/dL. As glucose levels in CSF are less than 2/3 of the concentration present in blood, these patients are extremely diabetic and are thus at high risk for various health ailments, including the primary symptoms used to clinically assess meningitis: headaches, stroke, and neuropathy.

Third, according to the same CDC report, "As of October 10, evidence of a fungal infection had been found in 26 (37%) patients by culture, histopathology, or polymerase chain reaction. The fungal species had been identified in 14 patients; Exserohilum spp. was identified in 13, and Aspergillus fumigatus was identified in one patient.” Only 1/3 of the cases are conclusively related to a fungal infection, and now two unrelated species are identified as the cause.

Finally, the CDC is unsure whether this "outbreak” represents a greater number of patients than usual. The October 4th CDC telebriefing states:

JESSICA BLISS [reporter]: You mentioned that fungal meningitis is quite rare. I wondered if you could quantify that at all if you could give us an idea the past incidents in the United States on a year-by-year basis for fungal meningitis.

BENJAMIN PARK [CDC]: Fungal meningitis is not a reportable condition so we don't know how often it occurs.

The CDC acknowledges that the fungal species implicated in infection are abundant in soil—"particularly in the Midwest near the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.” (Note that Tennessee and Michigan have the greatest number of cases supposedly resulting from the medicine contamination.) The CDC also states, "You may also get fungal meningitis after taking medications that weaken your immune system. Examples of these medications include steroids (such as prednisone)…”

Although every illness should be treated with caution, there is currently little evidence that fungal meningitis is a public health crisis. Rather, it is primarily affecting Midwestern elderly diabetic patients taking immunosuppressants—the very population who is at risk from fungal spores naturally present in our environment.

More here

Do you want a consumer controlled FDA?

If you and your doctor disobey FDA dictates both of you will be harmed.      Your doctor will be fined. He may lose his practice and be imprisoned.      You risk danger too. Try to import treatments of which the FDA disapproves and you too could be jailed. Resist this and you will suffer violence. You may even be killed.

Is this a service? Is it moral?

We say no. We uphold something called the Zero Aggression Principle (ZAP) . . .  The State must not threaten or initiate violence against people. Violence must be defensive only.

Initiating violence is inherently criminal.  We want to end FDA criminality. The letter to Congress for our FDA campaign shows how . . .

Make the FDA advisory, not mandatory.  This easy change would civilize the FDA.      It would place the FDA on the same basis as Underwriters Laboratory.  If drug companies, doctors, and patients value the FDA’s seal of approval then the FDA will prosper, just like Underwriters Laboratory does.

This is a non-criminal, consumer controlled approach to providing governmental services. It points the way to the future . . .

 *   We must Deny Consent for state criminality.

 *   We must force The State to obey the Zero Aggression Principle.

*    We must demote the political state in favor of consumer controlled government.

If you agree, please send Congress a letter saying so.  You can borrow from the personal comments I included in my letter to Congress . . .

The drug Metformin is a perfect example of why the FDA must lose its power to coerce. Metformin treats diabetes and metabolic syndrome. It also appears to have youth preserving powers. But . .

The FDA denied this drug to Americans until 1994, even though it was approved for use in Europe as long ago as 1958!

That’s 36 years of unneeded suffering and death caused by the FDA’s violence based monopoly.

This is why I consider the mandatory FDA to be a criminal organization. I deny my consent to this criminality. Fix it. Make the FDA voluntary.


19 October, 2012

Trivial multivitamin benefits 

The effect is far too small to support any causal inferences

Middle-aged men who took vitamins were 8 per cent less likely to develop cancer of any kind

Regular use for more than a decade cuts men’s chances of developing the disease by 8 per cent, say researchers.

They cannot identify a single vitamin or combination that works, but claim the benefit comes from a broad combination of low dose vitamins.

The US study involved only men so the same effect cannot be assumed for women, but experts believe it is likely to be similar.

Almost 15,000 doctors took part in the survey at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, and Harvard Medical School.

It is significant as the first trial of its kind, said Michael Gaziano, chief of the Boston hospital’s ‘division of ageing’. He said: ‘Despite the fact that more than one-third of Americans take multivitamins, their long-term effects were unknown until now.’

Millions of Britons buy multivitamins in the hope that they might prevent illness. However, there is little evidence for such benefits and some studies on high-dose vitamins have shown harm.

The latest trial included 14,641 male physicians, initially aged 50 years or older, including 1,312 men with a history of cancer at the start of the study in 1997, with treatment and follow-up through to 2011. Participants received a daily multivitamin or dummy pill and were followed for an average of 11.2 years.

Analysis of the data found men taking a multivitamin had a modest 8 per cent reduction in total cancer incidence, including colorectal, lung and bladder. There was no statistically significant effect on deaths from cancer.

The daily pill was a brand called Centrum Silver for the over 50s containing vitamins A, C, D, E, B6 and B12, calcium, selenium and zinc.

The study was published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association to coincide with its presentation at the Annual American Association for Cancer Research’s Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research meeting.

The 'modest' reduction is thought to mirror the benefits of eating a healthy diet high in fruit and vegetables

Dr Gaziano said many take multivitamins daily because it might ward off cancer, despite the paucity of evidence.

He said there was speculation about the role of individual vitamins and minerals in cancer prevention, but it was difficult to identify any single mechanism through which components of their tested multivitamin may have reduced cancer risk.

‘Although the main reason to take multivitamins is to prevent nutritional deficiency, these data provide support for the potential use of multivitamin supplements in the prevention of cancer in middle-aged and older men,’ said the study.


Starch kidney failure risk

Another failure of medical fashion

Intensive care doctors should reconsider using a starch fluid to resuscitate patients because it results in higher rates of kidney failure than the alternative saline, researchers say.

In a study of 7000 patients treated in 32 Australian hospitals, researchers from the University of New South Wales' George Institute for Global Health found starch had no clinical benefits over saline.

But patients given starch had a 21 per cent higher risk of kidney failure than those given saline, according to the study published today in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Lead researcher Simon Finfer said starch was widely used overseas and increasingly in Australia, where it was first registered for use in 2008.

Doctors use fluids as a first-line treatment to maintain blood pressure and deliver oxygen and other nutrients to vital organs in acutely ill patients.

Professor Finfer said starch was marketed as being more effective than saline or other fluids on the basis of small studies of its short-term effect on blood pressure and heart rate. But he said little had previously been known about longer-term outcomes in a large patient sample.

The study showed 7 per cent of patients given starch developed kidney failure, compared with 5.8 per cent of those given saline, but found no higher risk of death within three months.

"With patients who are critically ill, there will be a proportion who will develop kidney failure as part of that illness," he said. "But what this tells us is that if we use starch as opposed to saline to resuscitate these patients, more of them will develop kidney failure and need dialysis.

"Approximately 100,000 patients are treated in intensive care units in Australia each year. If everybody got starch, it might result in an extra thousand people having kidney failure."

Professor Finfer said the findings reinforced concerns "that starch is deposited in the kidney and other tissues and might cause kidney injury in that fashion".

He expected doctors worldwide would change their practice in light of the study.

The Austin, Frankston and Western hospitals in Melbourne and the Royal North Shore, St George and Royal Prince Alfred hospitals in Sydney participated in the study.


18 October, 2012

The brain map that shows the differences in the brains of autistic people can explain their difficulties - and also shed light on their unique talents

I am pleased to see noted below something I have long drawn attention to:  That autistic people tend to have larger heads and hence presumably larger underlying brains.  And the fact that the enlargement is not uniform across brain areas  -- and hence may be random -- explains why each autistic person has a different pattern of abilities

Scientists investigating the brain of one of the world's most famous autistic people have found several features that can explain her unique talents.

Temple Grandin, professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University, is what is known as a 'savant' - someone who shows some of the social deficits of autism yet also has some exceptional abilities.

A tireless campaigner for autism research and awareness she is known for her exceptional non-verbal intelligence, spatial reasoning, sharp visual acuity and an uncanny gift for spelling and reading.

The subject of an award-winning eponymous-titled biographical film starring Claire Danes, Professor Grandin was also in 2010 listed in the Time 100 list of the 100 most influential people in the world in the 'Heroes' category.

In a bid to understand her cognitive gifts, and the accompanying weaknesses, a group of neuroscientists gave the professor a series of psychological tests and scanned her brain using several imaging processes.

Jason Cooperrider, a graduate student at the University of Utah who presented the work at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting, explained their aims to the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative.

'We asked how might brain structure and function be related to both outstanding ability and outstanding disability — the autism — within the same brain,' he said.

The professor received exceptionally high scores on several psychological assessments, including tests of reading, spelling and spatial reasoning.

She achieved a phenomenal perfect score on Raven's Coloured Progressive Matrices test, which assesses non-verbal reasoning. Her weakest skill was found to be verbal working memory.

Scans showed Professor Grandin's brain is significantly larger than that of three matched neurotypical control subjects - something seen in some children with autism but which scientists do not yet understand.

Her lateral ventricles - chambers which hold cerebrospinal fluid - are different in size, with the left much much larger than the right, a finding Mr Cooperrider described as 'quite striking'.

On both sides, the professor possesses unusually large amygdala, sectors of the brain which are part of the limbic system and have been shown to perform a primary role in the processing of memory and emotional reactions.

The researchers also traced white-matter connections in Professor Grandin's brain using diffusion tensor imaging, finding what they dubbed 'enhanced' connections in the left precuneus, a region involved with episodic memory, visuospatial processing, reflections upon self, and aspects of consciousness.

They found she also has enhanced white matter in the left inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus. This region connects the frontal and occipital lobes, which might explain the professor's keen visual acuity, the researchers said.

In keeping with the double-edged nature of Professor Grandin's condition, she also has some weak connections, which the researchers said were defined in part by decreased integrity of brain-tissue fibres.

One weak area was her left inferior frontal gyrus, which includes the famous Broca's area, which has functions linked to speech production and impairment of which can leave brain injury sufferers mute. Professor Grandin's right fusiform gyrus - a brain region involved in facial and body recognition - also had compromised connections.

The findings agreed with the professor's own personal assessments of her abilities. She has previously written how words are, for her, only understood when translated into pictures and described how she finds socialising 'boring'.

She has noted in her autobiographical works that autism affects every aspect of her life.

She has to wear comfortable clothes to counteract her sensory integration dysfunction and has structured her lifestyle to avoid sensory overload.


Skipping breakfast to lose weight makes you fatter - and far more likely to raid the vending machine

More evidence that dieting makes you fat

If you think skipping your morning tea and toast will help you shed a few pounds, you could be mistaken.  Researchers claim people who miss breakfast not only eat more for lunch but also crave fatty and sugary foods, putting them at risk of gaining rather than losing weight.

Scientists at Imperial College London scanned the brains of 21 volunteers while they looked at pictures of different foods, such as salads and chocolate.

The volunteers also rated how appealing they found the foods, which ranged from salads and vegetables to calorie-laden chocolates, desserts, cakes, pizzas and burgers.

This was done twice - once after the men and women had eaten breakfast and again on a morning when they hadn’t eaten since the night before.

Afterwards, they were given a pasta lunch and told they could eat as much as they liked.

Those who had missed breakfast ate about 250 calories more - the equivalent of five Jaffa Cakes or a chunky Kit Kat.

They also found the high-calorie foods more tempting, with the chocolate the most appealing food of all, the Society for Neuroscience’s annual conference in New Orleans heard.

This suggests that if they had had a choice of foods for lunch, they would have homed in on the unhealthy ones and so packed away even more calories, said researcher Tony Goldstone.

The MRI scans showed a region called the orbital frontal cortex, which tells the brain how important or tasty a food is, to light up more when breakfast had been skipped.  Thoughts of high-calorie foods made it particularly active.

It is thought that when we skip meals, our gut releases hormones that act on the orbital frontal cortex, priming it to steer our thoughts towards sugary and fatty treats.

While this might make sense in times of famine, when it is essential to get as many calories as possible, when food is plentiful, it could lead to us eating more than is good for us.

Dr Goldstone said: ‘Through the participants’ MRI results and observations of how much they ate at lunch, we found ample evidence that fasting made people hungrier and increased the appeal of high-calorie foods and the amount people ate.

‘Beware of going for long periods without eating because you are going to crave high-calorie foods much more because of changes in how your orbital frontal cortex works.


17 October, 2012

Six cups of coffee a day 'cuts risk of both womb and prostate cancer'

Here we go again.  The effects observed are too weak to support causal inferences.  And they are just correlations anyway.  Maybe richer people (who are healthier) can afford more coffee, for instance.  Or maybe they are more stressed and so need coffee more --  Or maybe lots of things

Women who drink four to six cups of coffee a day are less likely to suffer from womb cancer, while men who drink this amount are less likely to suffer prostate cancer, according to a study using 117,000 volunteers.

The effects were seen regardless of whether they drank regular or decaffeinated coffee, suggesting the effects are not linked to caffeine.

Although many people limit the amount of coffee they consume because it can cause a spike in blood pressure, recent studies suggest the drink may also offer health benefits.

Regular coffee drinkers also appear to have a lower risk of Type-2 diabetes, gallstones, colon cancer and even Parkinson’s disease.

In the latest research, a team from Harvard University looked at the drinking habits of 67,000 women whose health had been tracked for more than 20 years.

They found those who drank four or more cups a day reduced their risk of endometrial cancer by 25 per cent, compared with those who drank less than one cup a day.

A similar effect was found for decaffeinated coffee, but tea consumption had no impact. The researchers then looked at coffee intake among a group of 50,000 men over a 20-year period.

The results showed that those who drank six or more cups had an 18 per cent lower risk of suffering prostate cancer and a 60 per cent lower risk of developing its most deadly form.

One theory is that coffee may have a beneficial effect on insulin levels. Previous research has linked insulin levels with tumour growth, and coffee may help to limit this effect.

The drink can improve glucose processing and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, all of which play roles in cancer progression.

The researchers are warning against adding sugar and cream to each cup because the extra calories could offset benefits gained from the coffee.

Womb cancer is diagnosed in 8,000 women a year in the UK, while prostate cancer is diagnosed in about 40,000 men.


Cure or no cure, we’ll keep taking the tablets

Should echinacea fail against the common cold, a new 'remedy’ will not be far away

By Theodore Dalrymple

A study by the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff has found that the popular cold remedy echinacea can not only prevent colds but also shorten them once they start. If you take three daily doses for four months, your chances of catching a cold and the length of time you spend with it declines by 26 per cent, or 60 per cent if you are particularly susceptible to colds. Whether the benefit is large enough for people to take echinacea three times a day for four months is something for each person to decide: no answer is right for everyone.

Actually, these findings are not unexpected. A study from the University of Connecticut published in 2007 found that people who took a preparation of echinacea reduced the number of colds from which they suffered by 60 per cent; and if they did catch cold, the illness lasted 1.4 days fewer than if they did not take the preparation. It is only honest to point out, however, that other trials – for example, one led by a researcher from the University of Virginia in 2005 – have been negative. As is almost always the case, further research is needed.

If it turns out that echinacea really is valuable both as a prophylactic and a treatment, there will be rejoicing, not to say crowing, among enthusiasts of alternative medicine, for it will vindicate folk wisdom as a source of medical knowledge. Echinacea is extracted from a North American genus of plants of that name. Apparently, it was used by native Indians as a cure for a variety of conditions including snakebite. According to Wallace Sampson, a physician at Stanford University with an interest in alternative medicines, echinacea was first marketed for use in colds by a Swiss herbalist who had been told (mistakenly) that American Indians took it for that purpose.

In fact, several medical advances have resulted from doctors conducting experiments on folk remedies about which they had heard. William Withering discovered the use of digitalis in this way, and Edward Jenner the use of cowpox innoculation – which eventually led to the elimination of smallpox. But it is science that is required to distinguish between folk wisdom and folk superstition.

Why can’t we be immunised against colds as we can against, say, measles or yellow fever? Colds are caused by hundreds of strains of viruses, and immunity against one strain does not confer immunity against the others – which is why, according to American immunological data, elementary schoolchildren suffer from three to eight colds a year, and adults two or three.

Let us suppose for a moment that further scientific tests on echinacea show that, contrary to the hopes raised, it really does not work either to prevent or to cure colds: will that be the end of its career?

By no means. We each – man, woman and child – spend about £10 a year on cold remedies, most of which we know perfectly well will not shorten the duration of our colds (which, incidentally, are responsible for about 50 per cent of time lost at work through illness, so that colds are more economically than medically significant). But we are temperamentally incapable of saying to ourselves when ill, "There is nothing I can do about it”, and some of the remedies give us symptomatic relief, if only by making us drowsy.

About a third of people in Britain take vitamin supplements, too; we feel, in our bones rather than with our minds, that there must be a diet that will keep us healthy and free of disease. In my childhood I was given various disgusting concoctions of hot milk and honey for my colds. These days I prefer pills – provided that I can’t taste them.

The desire to take medicine, said the great 19th-century physician Sir William Osler, is what best distinguishes man from the animals. This is despite the fact that his near contemporary, Oliver Wendell Holmes, said that if the whole of the pharmacopoiea were thrown into the sea, it would be better for humanity but worse for the fish. The mere uselessness, or even harmfulness, of medicine has never prevented mankind from taking it.


16 October, 2012

Medical junk science: Canned veggies may make kids fat

The war on BPA continues -- from the usual shoddy base

Can feeding your child canned soup and vegetables make her fat? According to study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), it just might — but only if your child is white. That’s the latest junk science "finding” from yet another study designed to condemn the chemical bisphenol A (BPA). Despite obvious flaws with the study and the implausibility of its findings, newspapers around the nation, news websites, blogs and others continue to declare that there is "more evidence” that BPA poses a health problem.

You would think that reputable medical journals like JAMA would focus on science that truly adds insight and value about medical research and public health. After all, the group that publishes it — the American Medical Association – states on its website that its mission is "[t]o promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health.” But this study really doesn’t do that. It’s more akin  to political science than it is to medical research and may harm public health if it leads to bans on food packaging that uses BPA resins. BPA bans are used to prevent the development of deadly pathogens in our food, and there are no good substitutes.

Surely, all publications have a bias toward studies that come up with positive associations even if dozens of others fail to find associations. Positive findings are more interesting news, even though this bias can generate false impressions as to the state of research. But that alone does not explain why JAMA published this study, which, much like a recent study on BPA and heart disease, is so flawed that no one — let alone a serious medical journal — should take it seriously.

The JAMA obesity study used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) program to assess national health trends. Each year, CDC collects data from a different group of volunteers (rather than follow the same group), conducting physical exams and interviews. From this database, the JAMA study pulled data related to BPA levels found in urine and body fat measurements for 2,838 subjects aged 6- through 19 years old. It found that for some participants high BPA levels were associated with higher body fat, which it concluded suggests that BPA contributes to obesity.

Like the heart disease study, the JAMA obesity study is seriously flawed for two main reasons. First, it relies on "spot sampling” of BPA — measuring exposure via one urine sample per subject. The fact is BPA levels in urine change practically hourly, which means that one-time measurements tell us nothing! Second, it largely ignores the fact that the human body quickly metabolizes BPA before it can have any health impacts. For more background on these two issues, see my blog post on BPA and coronary heart disease.

Those two facts alone are reason enough for JAMA to reject publication of this study, but there are many other reasons why JAMA should have refused publication. First, the association they found — if it means anything at all — may simply suggest that children who eat processed foods (much of which is packaged in containers that use BPA resins) tend to be overweight. In fact, processed foods contain greater calories than do fresh produce. The study notes:
    Obese children may drink more canned or bottled beverages, or eat more canned food, and thus have higher urinary BPA levels. Similarly, although we adjusted for excessive caloric intake and television watching—lifestyle-associated risks for childhood obesity—it may be those sedentary children consume foods high in BPA.

Moreover, the association they found was not even particularly compelling or consistent. Specifically, it found that BPA is associated with higher body fat among non-Hispanic white children, but not for Hispanic or black children. Unless there is some compelling and plausible body of research to suggest why this is the case, such disparate results suggest that the association was little more than a statistical accident.

The study authors themselves admit up front in the "abstract” that they have not really discovered anything new. They note:
    BPA exposure is plausibly linked to childhood obesity, but evidence is lacking to date.

In the "discussion” section, they note the study’s key flaw:
    If BPA is rapidly and completely excreted, as suggested by the few adult pharmacokinetic studies to date, then a single measurement of urinary BPA concentration would be a poor proxy for long-term exposure.

However, they then enter into an unscientific rationalization to justify drawing conclusions from what is admittedly a "poor proxy”:
    Recent data from adults in NHANES 2003-2004, however, suggest that urinary BPA concentration does not decrease rapidly with fasting time, suggesting that it is stored in fat or other physiologic compartments.

In other words, the JAMA authors rest the validity of their methodology — and ultimately their conclusions — on an existing outside data source that simply "suggests” the human body stores BPA, which is hardly a scientific finding. In fact, the citation they provide for "recent” data goes to a single study from 2004 that also uses NHANES data and that is not very compelling for drawing the conclusions that JAMA authors use it to do.


NYC: Industry sues to block ban on sugary drinks

Soda makers, restaurateurs and other businesses sued Friday to try to block the city's unprecedented move to restrict sales of super-sized, sugary drinks, an effort the city called a coup for public health but the industry views as unfair and undemocratic.

"For the first time, they're telling New Yorkers how much of certain safe and lawful beverages they can drink," said Caroline Starke, a spokeswoman for the business groups, whose complaint also faults the city for making the decision through an unelected board. The groups include the American Beverage Association, the National Restaurant Association, a soft drink workers union and groups representing interests ranging from movie theater owners to Korean-American grocers.

A spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the regulation's chief champion, called the lawsuit a groundless effort to stop a groundbreaking policy.

"This predictable, yet baseless, lawsuit fortunately will help put an even greater spotlight on the obesity epidemic," said the spokesman, Marc LaVorgna, who noted that the city also won fights over outlawing smoking in bars and offices and forcing fast-food restaurants to list calorie counts on their menus.

The beverage industry hinted it was considering a suit as soon as the city Board of Health approved the regulation last month. The rule would stop restaurants, cafeterias and concession stands from selling soda and other high-calorie drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. It's set to take effect in March.

Bloomberg has called it a reasonable way to fight an obesity problem that takes a toll on many New Yorkers' health and city hospitals' budgets.

The measure keeps people from drinking extra calories without thinking, he says. For someone who drinks a soda every day, for example, downing a 16-ounce Coke instead of a 20-ounce one trims 14,600 calories a year, or the equivalent of 70 Hershey bars.

"Nobody is banning anything," the mayor said when the plan passed, noting that someone who wanted a second soda could get one.

The soda makers and sellers say the city is being a nanny-like nag to consumers and imposing an unfair, uneven burden on businesses. Manufacturers will have to get new bottles, and eateries will lose sales to competitors that aren't covered by the rule, they say. A customer who couldn't buy a 20-ounce soda at a pizzeria would be able to get a Big Gulp at a 7-Eleven, for instance, as convenience stores are under different regulations.

"(The rule) unfairly harms small businesses at a time when we can ill afford it," the suit says.

It also says the Bloomberg-appointed health board shouldn't dictate the size of soft drinks. Ten City Council members signed onto a July measure calling on the health board not to approve the rule; a New York Times poll in August showed that six in 10 New Yorkers opposed it.

The city says the board, made up of physicians and other health experts, is exactly the panel to make such decisions. It has held sway over matters ranging from milk inspection in the 1870s to banning lead paint in 1960, the city notes.


15 October, 2012

New Study: Walking Does NOT Protect Heart

"Walking is man's best medicine," said Hippocrates more than 2,400 years ago, and for many years, most doctors have advised their patients to walk regularly. Advocates of walking claim numerous health benefits including reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. But walking, in and of itself isn't enough, says a new Danish study.

Research published in the online journal BMJ Open found that although fast walking and jogging can slash the risk factors for heart disease and stroke by 50 percent, it's the intensity that counts. Simply walking an hour a day made no difference in combating the impact of metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of factors, including midriff bulge, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, elevated glucose levels, and abnormal levels of fat in the blood.

Three factors — genes, diet, and lack of exercise — are thought to be keys in the development of metabolic syndrome, which encourages inflammation and blood thickening.

Scientists studied more than 10,000 Danes between the ages of 21 and 98. They were originally assessed in 1991-1994 and followed for up to 10 years. All of the participants answered questions about their level of physical activity and were then categorized according to intensity and duration.

Initially, about 1 in 5 (20.7 percent) women and 1 in 4 (27.3 percent) men had metabolic syndrome. Prevalence of the disease was strongly linked to the level of physical activity. Among the women, almost 1 in 3 of those who were sedentary had the syndrome, whereas only 1 in 10 women who were very physically active had it. Among men, just under 37 percent of sedentary participants had the syndrome compared to under 14 percent of men who were the most active.

Of the remaining participants who didn't have metabolic syndrome, just under two-thirds completed the final survey and assessment. At that point, 1 in 7 had developed the condition.

Again, incidence was higher among those with a sedentary lifestyle. Almost 1 in 5 (19.4 percent) of them had developed metabolic syndrome compared to about 1 in 9 (11.8 percent) of those who were very physically active.

It was not only the amount of exercise, but also the intensity which helped reduce the risk of developing the syndrome. After all factors were considered, fast walking speed halved the risk, while jogging cut the risk by 40 percent. Going for an hour's walk, however, made no difference.

"Our results confirm the role of physical activity in reducing [metabolic syndrome] risk and suggest that intensity rather than volume of physical activity is important,” the authors concluded.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly.


BBC falls for junk science about alcohol

BBC bosses have been forced into a humiliating U-turn after wrongly claiming that cracking down  on cheap alcohol would save the lives of tens of thousands of pensioners.

They have admitted that a Panorama investigation into alcohol abuse and the elderly used research supporting the introduction of minimum prices which was later discovered to be wrong.

The BBC1 programme, called Old, Drunk And Disorderly?, claimed the lives of 50,000 pensioners would be saved across England over ten years if a price limit were brought in.

Scotland is to introduce a minimum price of 50p per unit for alcohol next year.

Joan Bakewell, a former pensioners’ tsar under the last Labour Government, who presented the programme, told viewers: ‘We reveal new research which predicts raising alcohol prices could save the lives of thousands of pensioners.’

She also wrote in a newspaper: ‘With cheap booze available round-the-clock in supermarkets, there  is evidence that if England follows Scotland’s lead, there could be 50,000 fewer alcohol-related deaths over the next decade.’

However, BBC bosses have admitted the figure was exaggerated, saying the real estimate is 11,500. It has ordered that the show be taken down from its online iPlayer service and re-edited.

The Corporation blamed Sheffield University for providing the wrong figures, pointing out that the university had ‘apologised unreservedly’.

In a statement, it said: ‘The School of Health and Related Research at Sheffield University emphasised the human error was wholly on their part and has apologised unreservedly to the BBC.’

In a statement, Sheffield University insisted  the mistake did not impact ‘in any way’ on other work by its Alcohol Research Group, which has previously claimed that a 50p-per-unit minimum price in England would reduce alcohol consumption by 6.7 per cent.


14 October, 2012

Caffeine protects against Alzheimer's

In oxygen-deprived mice

Recent studies have linked caffeine consumption to a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease, and a new University of Illinois study may be able to explain how this happens.

"We have discovered a novel signal that activates the brain-based inflammation associated with neurodegenerative diseases, and caffeine appears to block its activity. This discovery may eventually lead to drugs that could reverse or inhibit mild cognitive impairment," said Gregory Freund, a professor in the U of I's College of Medicine and a member of the U of I's Division of Nutritional Sciences.

Freund's team examined the effects of caffeine on memory formation in two groups of mice—one group given caffeine, the other receiving none. The two groups were then exposed to hypoxia, simulating what happens in the brain during an interruption of breathing or blood flow, and then allowed to recover.

The caffeine-treated mice recovered their ability to form a new memory 33 percent faster than the non-caffeine-treated mice. In fact, caffeine had the same anti-inflammatory effect as blocking IL-1 signaling. IL-1 is a critical player in the inflammation associated with many neurodegenerative diseases, he said. "It's not surprising that the insult to the brain that the mice experienced would cause learning memory to be impaired. But how does that occur?" he wondered.

The scientists noted that the hypoxic episode triggered the release of adenosine by brain cells. "Your cells are little powerhouses, and they run on a fuel called ATP that's made up of molecules of adenosine. When there's damage to a cell, adenosine is released," he said. Just as gasoline leaking out of a tank poses a danger to everything around it, adenosine leaking out of a cell poses a danger to its environment, he noted.

The extracellular adenosine activates the enzyme caspase-1, which triggers production of the cytokine IL-1?, a critical player in inflammation, he said. "But caffeine blocks all the activity of adenosine and inhibits caspase-1 and the inflammation that comes with it, limiting damage to the brain and protecting it from further injury," he added.

Caffeine's ability to block adenosine receptors has been linked to cognitive improvement in certain neurodegenerative diseases and as a protectant against Alzheimer's disease, he said.

"We feel that our foot is in the door now, and this research may lead to a way to reverse early cognitive impairment in the brain. We already have drugs that target certain adenosine receptors. Our work now is to determine which receptor is the most important and use a specific antagonist to that receptor," he said.

Hypoxia/Reoxygenation Impairs Memory Formation via Adenosine-Dependent Activation of Caspase 1

Gabriel S. Chiu1 et al.


After hypoxia, a critical adverse outcome is the inability to create new memories. How anterograde amnesia develops or resolves remains elusive, but a link to brain-based IL-1 is suggested due to the vital role of IL-1 in both learning and brain injury. We examined memory formation in mice exposed to acute hypoxia. After reoxygenation, memory recall recovered faster than memory formation, impacting novel object recognition and cued fear conditioning but not spatially cued Y-maze performance. The ability of mice to form new memories after hypoxia/reoxygenation was accelerated in IL-1 receptor 1 knockout (IL-1R1 KO) mice, in mice receiving IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1RA), and in mice given the caspase 1 inhibitor Ac-YVAD-CMK. Mechanistically, hypoxia/reoxygenation more than doubled caspase 1 activity in the brain, which was localized to the amygdala compared to the hippocampus. This reoxygenation-dependent activation of caspase 1 was prevented by broad-spectrum adenosine receptor (AR) antagonism with caffeine and by targeted A1/A2A AR antagonism with 8-cyclopentyl-1,3-dipropylxanthine plus 3,7-dimethyl-1-propargylxanthine. Additionally, perfusion of adenosine activated caspase 1 in the brain, while caffeine blocked this action by adenosine. Finally, resolution of anterograde amnesia was improved by both caffeine and by targeted A1/A2A AR antagonism. These findings indicate that amygdala-based anterograde amnesia after hypoxia/reoxygenation is sustained by IL-1? generated through adenosine-dependent activation of caspase 1 after reoxygenation.


The Nitrate and Nitrite Myth: Another Reason not to Fear Bacon

Goodie!  I have been having bacon 'n eggs for breakfast most mornings for many years.  Now I can rest easy

Bacon has been long considered unhealthy due to the use of nitrates and nitrites in the curing process. Many conventional doctors, and well-meaning friends and relatives, will say you’re basically asking for a heart attack or cancer by eating the food many Paleo enthusiasts lovingly refer to as "meat candy”.

The belief that nitrates and nitrates cause serious health problems has been entrenched in popular consciousness and media. Watch this video clip to see Steven Colbert explain how the coming bacon shortage will prolong our lives thanks to reduced nitrates in our diets.

In fact, the study that originally connected nitrates with cancer risk and caused the scare in the first place has since been discredited after being subjected to a peer review. There have been major reviews of the scientific literature that found no link between nitrates or nitrites and human cancers, or even evidence to suggest that they may be carcinogenic. Further, recent research suggests that nitrates and nitrites may not only be harmless, they may be beneficial, especially for immunity and heart health. Confused yet? Let’s explore this issue further.

It may surprise you to learn that the vast majority of nitrate/nitrite exposure comes not from food, but from endogenous sources within the body. (1) In fact, nitrites are produced by your own body in greater amounts than can be obtained from food, and salivary nitrite accounts for 70-90% of our total nitrite exposure. In other words, your spit contains far more nitrites than anything you could ever eat.

When it comes to food, vegetables are the primary source of nitrites. On average, about 93% of nitrites we get from food come from vegetables. It may shock you to learn that one serving of arugula, two servings of butter lettuce, and four servings of celery or beets all have more nitrite than 467 hot dogs. (2) And your own saliva has more nitrites than all of them! So before you eliminate cured meats from your diet, you might want to address your celery intake. And try not to swallow so frequently.

All humor aside, there’s no reason to fear nitrites in your food, or saliva. Recent evidence suggests that nitrites are beneficial for immune and cardiovascular function; they are being studied as a potential treatment for hypertension, heart attacks, sickle cell and circulatory disorders. Even if nitrites were harmful, cured meats are not a significant source, as the USDA only allows 120 parts per million in hot dogs and bacon. Also, during the curing process, most of the nitrite forms nitric oxide, which binds to iron and gives hot dogs and bacon their characteristic pink color. Afterwards, the amount of nitrite left is only about 10 parts per million.

And if you think you can avoid nitrates and nitrites by eating so-called "nitrite- and nitrate-free” hot dogs and bacon, don’t be fooled. These products use "natural” sources of the same chemical like celery and beet juice and sea salt, and are no more free from nitrates and nitrites than standard cured meats. In fact, they may even contain more nitrates and nitrites when cured using "natural” preservatives.

It’s important to understand that neither nitrate nor nitrite accumulate in body. Ingested nitrate from food is converted into nitrite when it contacts our saliva, and of the nitrate we eat, 25% is converted into salivary nitrite, 20% converted into nitrite, and the rest is excreted in the urine within 5 hours of ingestion. (3) Any nitrate that is absorbed has a very short half-life, disappearing from our blood in under five minutes. (4) Some nitrite in our stomach reacts with gastric contents, forming nitric oxide which may have many beneficial effects. (5, 6) You can listen to my podcast "Does Red Meat Increase Your Risk of Death?" for more information on this topic.

In general, the bulk of the science suggests that nitrates and nitrites are not problematic and may even be beneficial to health. Critical reviews of the original evidence suggesting that nitrates/nitrites are carcinogenic reveals that in the absence of co-administration of a carcinogenic nitrosamine precursor, there is no evidence for carcinogenesis. (7) Newly published prospective studies show no association between estimated intake of nitrite and nitrite in the diet and stomach cancer. (8) Nitric oxide, formed by nitrite, has been shown to have vasodilator properties and may modulate platelet function in the human body, improving blood pressure and reducing heart attack risk. (9, 10, 11) Nitrates may also help boost the immune system and protect against pathogenic bacteria (12, 13, 14)

So what do we take from this? There’s no reason to fear nitrates and nitrites in food. No reason to buy nitrate-free, uncured bacon. No reason to avoid cured meats in general, particularly those from high quality sources. In fact, because of concerns about trichinosis from pork, it makes a lot more sense in my opinion to buy cured bacon and other pork products. I do.


12 October, 2012

Coffee linked with vision loss?

The study below is somewhere between moronic and dishonest. The  glaucoma incidence between extreme groups was NOT STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT.  The one tiny significant effect they did find was that  MODERATE coffee drinkers had more glaucoma than people who drank no coffee.  So you can avoid glaucoma either by drinking no coffee or lots of coffee?  What a load of rubbish! 

There may be something going on in their sample but the authors below don't know what it is.  Who, for instance, were the nurses who drank no coffee?  Strange people!  Maybe they were Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists,  who are known to have better health

Drinking more than three cups of coffee a day may increase the risk of vision loss and blindness, according to American research.

Even moderate amounts of the drink make developing the devastating eye condition glaucoma more likely.

The study, published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, suggests coffee lovers reduce their intake to reduce their chances of developing the condition.

Glaucoma occurs when the drainage tubes within the eye become slightly blocked.

This prevents eye fluid from draining properly, causing pressure to build up. This can damage the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, and the nerve fibres from the retina (the light-sensitive nerve tissue that lines the back of the eye).

The researchers, from the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, suggest that compounds found in coffee may increase pressure within the eyeball, causing a vision-destroying condition known as exfoliation glaucoma.

This occurs when material is rubbed off both the eye's iris and lens, which then clogs up the eyeball's fluid-draining system, leading to increased pressure within the eye

However no correlation was with other caffeine products such as tea, cola or chocolate.

Previous research has found that Scandinavian populations have the highest occurrence of exfoliation glaucoma.

They also have the highest consumption of caffeinated coffee in the world.

The new study assessed more than 120,000 people in the UK and U.S. who were over 40 and not suffering from glaucoma.

They completed questionnaires about how much coffee they drank and their medical records were checked for a history of glaucoma.

Those who drank more than three cups a day were had an increased risk of developing glaucoma compared with those who abstained.

Women with a family history of glaucoma also had an elevated risk.

Coffee may not be without its benefits, however. Research published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine found drinking four to five cups a day possibly reduced the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, among other conditions


The Relationship between Caffeine and Coffee Consumption and Exfoliation Glaucoma or Glaucoma Suspect: A Prospective Study in Two Cohorts

Louis R. Pasquale1


Purpose: We examined the association between caffeine and caffeinated beverage consumption in relation to the risk of exfoliation glaucoma or exfoliation glaucoma suspect (EG/EGS).

Methods:  We followed 78,977 women from the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and 41,202 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) who were at least 40 years of age, did not have glaucoma, and reported undergoing eye examinations from 1980 (NHS) or 1986 (HPFS) to 2008. Information on consumption of caffeine-containing beverages and potential confounders were repeatedly ascertained in validated follow-up questionnaires. Confirmation with medical record review revealed 360 incident EG/EGS cases. Multivariate rate ratios (RRs) for EG/EGS were calculated in each cohort and then pooled using meta-analytic techniques.

Conclusions: We observed a positive association between heavier coffee consumption with risk of EG/EGS in this large prospective study.


Study: Many drugs just fine years after "expiry date”

Chances are, your medicine cabinet contains some pills that are past their expiration date. You might even have some pain relievers, some cough syrup or some sleeping pills that were purchased back when Richard Nixon was in the White House. But you can’t seem to throw them away because you suspect they might still be OK to take.

If you’ve wondered whether medicines really do need to be tossed after their expiration date, you’re got some company at the California Poison Control System, UC San Francisco and UC Irvine. Researchers from those institutions decided to satisfy their curiosity by testing the effectiveness of eight drugs that had been sitting around, unopened, in pharmacies for years after they had supposedly gone bad.

These drugs were not just a few years past their prime, these medications were a full 28 to 40 years past their official expiration dates.

The eight drugs contained a total of 15 active ingredients. The researchers couldn’t find a standard test for one of them (homatropine), so they focused their analysis on the other 14.

The tablets and capsules were dissolved and subjected to chemical analysis using a mass spectrometer. That revealed how much of the active ingredients remained in the pills.

Out of the 14 active ingredients, 12 were still at high enough concentration – 90% of the amount stated on the label – to qualify as having "acceptable potency,” the researchers found. These included:

Acetaminophen (the pain reliever in Tylenol)

Codeine (an opiate that treats pain and coughs)

Hydrocodone (an opiate used to treat moderate to severe pain)

Phenacetin (an analgesic that’s not used much anymore)

Caffeine (a stimulant)

Chlorpheniramine (an antihistamine used to treat colds and allergies)

Pentobarbital (a short-acting barbiturate)

Butalbital (a barbiturate that lasts for an intermediate period of time)

Secobarbital (a barbituate used to treat insomnia)

Phenobarbital (a barbiturate that controls seizures and relieves anxiety)

Meprobamate (a tranquilizer to treat anxiety)

Methaqualone (a sedative and muscle relaxant known by the brand name Quaaludes)

The only active ingredients that missed that cutoff were aspirin and the stimulant amphetamine.

The expiration date on a drug is usually one to five years after it was manufactured. But those dates are often set arbitrarily, since the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require pharmaceutical makers to test how long the active ingredients will last, the researchers wrote.

They noted that the Shelf-Life Extension Program allows drugs in federal stockpiles to be retained for up to 278 months after their stated expiration date if tests show they are still potent. But some of the ingredients tested in this study remained good for 480 months – so far.

The research team’s obvious conclusion? "Our results support the effectiveness of broadly extending expiration dates for many drugs,” they wrote.

"The most important implication of our study involves the potential cost savings resulting from lengthier product expiration dating,” they added. "Given that Americans currently spend more than $300 billion annually on prescription medications, extending drug expiration dates could yield enormous health care expenditure savings.”

The analysis was published online Monday by Archives of Internal Medicine. The full report is behind a paywall, but you can can read the first page here.


11 October, 2012

HRT 'is safe and can protect against heart without increasing cancer risks'

This was evident from the beginning.  It was only attention-seeking hysteria that knocked it

Taking HRT is safe and can protect against heart disease without increasing cancer risks, a milestone study claims.

It found women who take hormone replacement therapy at the start of the menopause for 10 years can reduce their risk of heart failure, heart attacks and premature death.

Most importantly, the study found there was no extra risk of cancer, strokes or blood clots even 16 years after starting HRT.

Using HRT halved the risk of heart disease and strokes, and cut the death rate by 43 per cent during the study period.

Experts hailed the findings as finally demonstrating that HRT has long-term health benefits after a decade-long controversy over its safety.

British doctors are calling for rules on HRT prescribing to be re-written, allowing a new generation of women to get bone protection and relief from menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and mood changes.

At present, women in their 50s are told to use hormone replacement therapy drugs for the shortest period of time and not longer than five years.

The new Danish study is the only one to be carried out where women were randomly assigned to take HRT at the start of the menopause, and then their health checked after ten and 16 years.

Around 1,000 aged between 45 and 58 were recruited, with half taking HRT which was started early after the menopause. The control group received no treatment.

The study, published on the website, found that after ten years, 33 women in the control group had died or suffered heart failure or a heart attack compared with only 16 women who were given HRT.

They also found that 36 women in the HRT group were treated for cancer compared with 39 in the control group. Ten women in the HRT group were treated for breast cancer compared with 17 in the control group. Eleven women in the HRT group were treated for strokes compared with 14 in the control group.

Specialists had long believed the oestrogen in HRT should prevent heart disease, but in 2002 the US Women’s Health Initiative study claimed women on the treatment were at higher risk of breast cancer, heart disease and strokes.

Expert analysis has since concluded the risks were caused by HRT being used in women many years past the menopause, for whom it was never intended.

Dr John Stevenson, reader in metabolic medicine at Imperial College London, said UK authorities should update guidance which says HRT should be offered only to women with serious menopausal symptoms for the shortest time possible.

‘The strength of the [Danish] study is its long duration, and this shows that HRT, started around the menopause, is really pretty safe indeed, even for longer-term use,’ he said.


Botox trialled as asthma treatment

An oddball idea but it is fair to give it a trial

A Melbourne research team is hoping it can help fight asthma by using Botox which is commonly used to reduce wrinkles.

The researchers are reporting promising results from injections of Botox into the voice box.

They will also trial using Botox to treat hay fever.

Yvonne Lakeland is one of a group of asthma patients who have undergone the new treatment involving the Botox injection. She has had severe asthma for decades and has suffered many asthma attacks.  "There were times where I've had to be resuscitated and I've been on life support," she said.

The trial is being led by the director of respiratory medicine at the Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne, Professor Phil Bardin.

"In 11 injections we've given, nine we think have been successful," he said.  "What it's done is it's improved people's asthma symptoms - hasn't taken the asthma away obviously but seems to have improved it in many people.

"On the measurements we do on the CT scan, we can see that there's an opening of the voice box that suggests that more air is going through and suggests that people will be feeling less breathless with their asthma."

Professor Bardin says in asthmatics it is believed the voice box is asthmatic as well as the lung itself and that some of the limited air flow is caused by the voice box blocking the flow of air to the lung.

"So all the treatment does is it causes paralysis, or partial paralysis," he said.  "Some of the muscles in the voice box it relaxes and lets air through, in and out."

Despite the promising signs, Professor Bardin does not have enough proof that Botox can combat asthma but is planning a more comprehensive trial to find out.

Ms Lakeland is optimistic.  She had five asthma attacks last year and has noticed an improvement since her Botox injections. "In February this year I had the first injection," she said. "It's over four months now since I had the last one, which was only the second one and I still haven't had an attack.  "That's good news".

It is not the first time the botulinum toxin has been used in medicine.  It is used in neurology and as a treatment for migraines.

A comprehensive trial of the asthma treatment will begin next year.

Professor Bardin is hoping it can also be used to target the nerves responsible for hay fever.  "It will get under the surface, below the surface, and will be able to have an effect there," he said.  "It may be much more effective than say treatments with antihistamines that try to mop up the problem after it's occurred."

Professor Bardin is about to begin a trial of a gel to treat hay fever.


10 October, 2012

Children under three should be banned from watching TV, says authoritarian a*hole

Evidence for harm?  Just: "authorities say".  It's just conceited elitist opinion

Parents need to drastically cut the number of hours children spend watching television, while under threes should be stopped from watching altogether, a leading psychologist has warned.

Limiting the amount of time youngsters are sat in front of a screen could have significant advantages for their health, development and wellbeing, according to Dr Aric Sigman.

By the age of seven, a child born today will have spent a full year glued to screens and over the course of childhood youngsters spend more time watching TV than in school.

The population's vast use of games consoles, tablet computers, televisions, smart phones and laptops has been linked to obesity problems and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes - with the average child exposed to five different screens in each household.

Writing in the influential medical journey Archives Of Disease In Childhood, Dr Sigman said such extensive use could also lead to attention problems and other psychological difficulties.

‘Reducing total daily screen time for children, and delaying the age at which they start, could provide significant advantages for their health and wellbeing,' he writes.

‘While many questions remain regarding the precise nature of the association between screen time and adverse outcomes, the advice from a growing number of both researchers and other medical associations and government health departments elsewhere is becoming unequivocal: reduce screen time.’

The amount of time spent in front of a screen could also adversely affect children's social relationships, he added.

He said many parents use the devices as ‘electronic babysitters’ as a means to occupy their children.  ‘Screen time appears to have created the three-parent family,’ he added.

There are emerging concerns about the amount of time children spend watching 3D televisions and consoles - saying such devices could affect the development of the child's depth perception.

Dr Sigman - who is also a child health expert - has made a raft of suggestions for children's screen consumption including delaying the age children start using screens to at least three.

Children aged between three and seven should be limited to half-an-hour to an hour of screen time each day, he said.  Those aged seven to 12 should spend just one hour in front of screens.  Children aged 12 to 15 should have a maximum of 1.5 hours in front of screens and those aged 16 and over should spend just two hours, he recommends.

He concluded: ‘As health risks are reported to occur beyond exposure of two hours of screen time per day, although the average child is exposed to three times this amount, a robust initiative to encourage a reduction in daily recreational screen time could lead to significant improvements in child health and development.

‘Britain and European medical establishments should consider screen time as a separate entity from sedentary behaviour, and offer an advisory on the average number of hours per day young children, in particular, are viewing screen media, and the age at which they start.’


Fungal Meningitis Outbreak is iatrogenic

Quite appalling

It starts with a headache, nothing major. Then the neck stiffness sets in, the high fever. That's all the warning you have before fungal meningitis inflames your brain and takes your life. And it's happening, all of a sudden, to unprecedented numbers of people all across America.

Fungal meningitis is a devastating illness, but also historically an incredibly rare one. Which is why the 64 recent cases—spread over seven states—that have plagued the US in a very short time is so troubling. Five have died, thousands more are at risk. Even worse? It can all be traced back to a single, preventable source.

The Cure Is the Disease

Methylprednisolone acetate is an injected steroid, commonly used to treat the pain and swelling associated with arthritis but also deployed against blood disorders, severe allergies, even some cancers. Between the months of July and September, 52,848 vials of the stuff were shipped from New England Compounding Center Inc, in Framingham, MA, to treatment centers throughout the country.

In all, Reuters reports, 76 facilities in 23 states received shipments from NECC's warehouse. The steroid has a shelf life of 180 days, which means that thousands of patients could have been injected in that time, and thousands more could be still.

Why does all of this matter? Because every single case of fungal meningitis that has been reported in the last several weeks can be traced back to a dose of methylprednisolone acetate, provided by the New England Compounding Center.

Twenty-three states. 76 facilities. 52,858 vials. And most of them still unaccounted for.

What's Next

There's good news, yet; fungal meningitis—unlike its viral and bacterial brethren—is not contagious. This may count as an outbreak, but it won't reach full-fledged epidemic. It helps, too, that the offending batches of steroid have been recalled, and that NECC has suspended operations until it can figure out exactly what went wrong. But we're far from out of the woods, according to the Center for Disease Control's Benjamin Park:

"Unfortunately, despite the current recall, we expect to see additional cases as this investigation unfolds. However, it is possible if patients are identified soon and started on appropriate antifungal therapy some of the unfortunate consequences may be averted."

It takes up to a month for symptoms to present themselves, which means that we'll be seeing the fallout throughout October, and maybe beyond.

Meanwhile, the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to pass on the steroid treatments until it's absolutely certain that every one of those 52,858 tainted vials is accounted for. That, and hope the CDC and drug manufacturers can figure out how to make sure this never happens again.


Update:  Comment from a medical correspondent:

"Likely this drug was "preservative free" - made popular by hysteria following use of MUCH LARGER DOSES of preservatives accidentally introduced into spinal fluid many years ago. Local pain clinic doctor informed me – that preservatives in steroids have MUCH LOWER incidence of complications than "natural" drug.   Amount of preservatives is trivial, NOT proven in any way to be harmful, and likely would have prevented the infection problem."

9 October, 2012

How watermelon could prevent heart attacks AND weight gain -- in mice

A daily slice of watermelon could help prevent heart disease by halting the build-up of harmful cholesterol, new research shows.

Scientists who carried out studies on mice fed a high-fat diet found the fruit halved the rate at which 'bad' low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, accumulated.

Current guidelines in the UK recommend keeping total cholesterol below 5mmols per litre, a measurement of how much fat there is in each litre of blood in the body, with LDL accounting for no more than 3mmols/litre.

But an estimated 20 per cent of patients with excessive LDL levels are classed as resistant to statins - the drugs taken by around seven million people in the UK to control cholesterol.

The latest study, published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, suggests watermelon juice could help.

Researchers fed two groups of mice a high-fat diet but gave one water to drink and the other watermelon juice.

They tracked their health for several months and at the end of the experiment found the mice given watermelon juice had 50 per cent less LDL than those on water - despite eating the same diet.

They also weighed an average of 30 per cent less, but their blood pressure was no different.

Research leader Dr Shubin Saha said: ‘We didn’t see a lowering of blood pressure. But these other changes are promising.

‘We know that watermelon is good for health because it contains citrulline. We don’t know yet at what molecular level it’s working and that’s the next step.’

Some studies suggest the chemical is vital for the production of nitric oxide, a gas that widens blood vessels.

This research follows another recent study published in the Journal of Functional Foods which suggested eating apples each day could significantly improve the heart health of middle-aged adults in just one month.

Those who ate a daily apple over four weeks lowered 'bad' cholesterol in the blood by 40 per cent.

Taking capsules containing polyphenols, a type of antioxidant found in apples, had a similar, but not as large, effect.

Bad cholesterol can interact with free radicals to become oxidized, which can trigger inflammation and can cause tissue damage.


Harrison Bergeron’s Lunchtime

Some things in Sweden have yet to change.  The Local reports:

A talented head cook at a school in central Sweden has been told to stop baking fresh bread and to cut back on her wide-ranging veggie buffets because it was unfair that students at other schools didn’t have access to the unusually tasty offerings. Annika Eriksson, a lunch lady at school in Falun, was told that her cooking is just too good.

Pupils at the school have become accustomed to feasting on newly baked bread and an assortment of 15 vegetables at lunchtime, but now the good times are over. The municipality has ordered Eriksson to bring it down a notch since other schools do not receive the same calibre of food – and that is "unfair”.

Moreover, the food on offer at the school doesn’t comply with the directives of a local healthy diet scheme which was initiated in 2011, according to the municipality.

"A menu has been developed… It is about making a collective effort on quality, to improve school meals overall and to try and ensure everyone does the same,” Katarina Lindberg, head of the unit responsible for the school diet scheme, told the local Falukuriren newspaper.  However, Lindberg was not aware of Eriksson’s extraordinary culinary efforts and how the decision to force her to cut back had prompted outrage among students and parents.

"It has been claimed that we have been spoiled and that it’s about time we do as everyone else,” Eriksson said. She insisted, however, that her creative cooking has not added to the municipality’s expenses. "I have not had any complaints,” she told the paper.

Eriksson added that she sees it as her job to ensure that the pupils are offered several alternatives at meal times.  The food on offer does not always suit all pupils, she explained, and therefore she makes sure there are plenty of vegetables to choose from as well as proteins in the form of chicken, shrimp, or beef patties. From now on, the school’s vegetable buffet will be halved in size and Eriksson’s handmade loafs will be replaced with store-bought bread.Her traditional Easter and Christmas smörgåsbords may also be under threat.


The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away…


8 October, 2012

Will global warming cause more asthma in California Children?

By Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato

Mollie would seem to have a very indelicate brain.  Perhaps all the blood is off it.

She has  a lot of assertion, and some very weak reasoning below which tries to convince us that global warming -- if it ever comes -- would be bad for asthma.  I have endeavoured to pick out below the line of reasoning from among all the "human interest" content but you will see that no actual evidence for her claims is given.  I wonder why?  Could it be this medical report which says that: 

"Asthma UK says that for three quarters of the 5.4 million people with asthma, cold air is a trigger for their symptoms.  The charity says hospital admissions for asthma usually peak during periods of particularly cold weather. Breathing cold air into the lungs can trigger asthma attacks."

So warming would in fact be a good thing for asthmatics.  Hein?  It is a disgrace that the pseudo scientific rubbish below appeared in the "Scientific American"  -- now long ago transmogrified into  the "Unscientific American"

Climate change is expected to compound the issue, according to a new body of work published in the journal Issues in Ecology. Higher temperatures and an increased risk of drought on the West Coast essentially "cook" the nitrogen, resulting in nitrous oxide and ozone. These nitrogen byproducts cause cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, especially among the region's rural and urban poor who don't have the money to move away and reduce their exposure.

In 2007, about 25 million Americans had asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Costs for the chronic disease increased from an estimated $53 billion in 2002 to about $56 billion in 2007. The condition is distinctly prevalent in California's Central Valley, where one out of every six children have asthmatic symptoms -- a contemporary warning of how dire this issue could become in the near future.

Nitrous oxide leads to more ozone

It's not nitrogen gas by itself that's the problem. Eighty percent of the world's atmosphere is made up of the gaseous form. Nitrous oxide is a different story. The combination of nitrogen and oxygen molecules creates a powerful gas. In small quantities, nitrous oxide is used as "laughing gas" in dentist offices. On a larger scale, the vapor traps heat and contributes to global warming.

"It's a very potent greenhouse gas," said Eric Davidson, the president of Woods Hole Research Center. "It's about 300 times more potent per molecule as carbon dioxide."

He added, "Its half-life is over 100 years. The emissions of that gas will be with us through many generations."

The subsequent increase in temperature only makes matters worse. Nitrous oxide is also a precursor to ozone and nitrogen dioxide. Ozone in the stratosphere is a good thing. These molecules block some of the ultraviolet rays that heat the Earth. However, ozone close to the surface is a harmful irritant, triggering asthma, reducing lung capacity and affecting immune system response.

More HERE.  H/T Tom Nelson

Crookedness born of desperation

The sort of nonsense reported below never ceases.  It is cold weather (winter) that most sends people to hospital and kills them but there is a never-ending attempt from Warmists to "prove" that it is actually warm weather that is bad for you.  There may indeed be some conditions made worse by warm weather (e.g. mosquito-borne diseases) but the balance is clearly the other way

The funny bit about the study below, however, was that it claimed to cover temperature effects on health but their survey included only the months from May to September!  They left winter completely out of it!  What joke "research"!  There are few people more crooked than a Greenie

The journal article is:  "The Effect of Temperature on Hospital Admissions in Nine California Counties".  Check it for yourself

The risk of heading to the emergency room for certain conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, kidney disease and low blood pressure rises slightly as temperature and humidity increase, according to a new study from California.

Researchers also found that for a few conditions, including aneurysm and high blood pressure, higher temperatures were tied to a drop in ER visits.

"What we know about climate change is that heat waves in California and throughout the world are going to become more severe and more intense," said Rupa Basu, the study's lead author and an epidemiologist at the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. "With that, we're realizing this might implicate more health effects" from future temperatures.

That heat waves can lead to more deaths is already known, and one recent report predicts150,000 additional heat-related deaths will occur in U.S. cities by 2100 because of climate change (see Reuters story of May 24, 2012).

Basu and her colleagues looked at the relationship between heat and specific health conditions, rather than deaths, during the warm seasons in California from 2005 to 2008.

During this period there were 1.2 million visits to emergency rooms, the researchers report in the journal Epidemiology.

Basu's team divided the state into 16 climate zones and compared emergency room visits each day in a given area to local variations in temperature and humidity outside.

For each 10-degree increase in temperature, they saw increased ER visits for a variety of conditions - from a 1.7 percent rise in ER visits for heart disease to a 4.3 percent rise in diabetes visits to a 12.7 percent increase in visits for low blood pressure.

Conditions diagnosed as heat illness or heat stroke rose nearly four-fold for every 10-degree climb on the thermometer, and dehydration visits increased by 25 percent.

Although the study could not pinpoint why certain health conditions are more likely to send people to the ER on hotter days, Basu said it likely has to do with how our bodies adapt to heat.


7 October, 2012

Florida school considers 'trash-cams' at school cafeterias

Officials say federal law requires veggies on menu, but students toss them.  "You can lead a horse to water ...."

Lake County School Board officials are considering attaching cameras to school cafeteria trash cans to study what students are tossing after officials found that most of the vegetables on the school menu end up in the trash can.

New federal laws require students to take a healthy produce at lunchtime, but last year in Lake County, students tossed $75,000 worth of produce in the garbage.

"It's a big issue, and it's very hard to get our hands around it," said School Board member Todd Howard, who suggested "trash-cams." "They have to take (the vegetable), and then it ends up in the trash can, and that's a waste of taxpayer money.  It's also not giving students the nutrition that they need."

Laurel Walsh, whose daughter attends Tavares Elementary School, says getting kids to eat their fruits and vegetables is not the job of the respective schools.

"I think it starts at home with the parents.  If the kids just don't like it because they've never been given it at home, they're not going to try something new here," she said.

No decisions have been made on the cameras, but school leaders say they wouldn't capture students faces, just what they're throwing away.


Health body's eating tips unsubstantiated

THE food industry has attacked proposals by Australia's top health advisory body that people should limit red meat, avoid excessively processed food and reduce supermarket trips by car on environmental grounds, saying this approach has nothing to do with health.

A five-page draft document issued by the National Health and Medical Research Council says Australians should consider avoiding overconsumption of food and drinks, not purely for health reasons but because "this involves greater use of natural resources and puts more pressure on the environment".

Likewise, the document suggests people choose a variety of "seasonal and local" fruit and vegetables and grains "to reduce environmental impact".

The draft, which is open for public consultation for a month, also suggests Australians "minimise impact by reducing shopping trips by car", eat "raw food when appropriate" and use "home composting for disposal of food waste".

 The document suggests Australians should "choose protein sources that have a lower environmental impact, such as pork, poultry, eggs, tofu, tempeh, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans". It added fish and seafood should come from "stable stocks".

The document, which is proposed as an appendix to the next edition of the NHMRC's Dietary Guidelines, expected to be released next year, says the evidence that food choices and environmental degradation are linked had strengthened since the guidelines previous edition in 2003.

Gary Dawson, chief executive of the Australia Food and Grocery Council, which represents the food and grocery processing sector, said environmental considerations "did not have any place in dietary guidelines at all . . . It adds to concerns that the (dietary guidelines) process has run off the rails a bit . . . the risk is it undermines the credibility of the guidelines themselves."

Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton, a member of the NHMRC working panel that developed the appendix, defended the environmental focus, saying there had been "overwhelming" support in submissions for the inclusion of advice of this kind.


5 October, 2012

Fast food children ‘develop lower IQs’: Junk diet has a lasting effect (?)

The two statements in the heading above don't make a logical sequence. The writer  sort of gets it below in that they realize that the poor eat more fast food but they fail to realize that the poor are dumber and that the low IQ is passed on genetically  -- with what they eat being just incidental.  Journal abstract at foot of article below.

In her comments below Dr Dumb ("Stumm" is German/Yiddish for "dumb") relies heavily on "common sense".  She is obviously a very conventional thinker  -- despite the fact that she is author of a paper which claims that "Intellectual Curiosity Is the Third Pillar of Academic Performance"!  Ya gotta laugh!

She also is a poor psychologist.  The idea that you can reliably measure IQ at age 3 is ludicrous.  Any results you get from it are likely to be a random walk

And in the end she concludes that food type accounts for a "negligible amount" of IQ change.  In other words the kids remained  as bright or dull as they originally were  -- regardless of what they ate!  No wonder she relies so heavily on "commonsense".  Science is clearly too hard for her.  I think she gets by on glamour

Children given more fast food meals will grow up to have a lower IQ than those who regularly eat freshly-cooked meals, according to a study.

Childhood nutrition has long lasting effects on IQ, even after previous intelligence and wealth and social status are taken into account, it found.

The study examined whether the type of main meal that children ate each day had an impact on their cognitive ability and growth.

It looked at 4,000 Scottish children aged three to five years old and compared fast food with freshly-cooked food.

The study, undertaken by an academic at Goldsmiths, University of London, found that parents with a higher socio-economic status reported that they gave their children meals prepared with fresh ingredients more often, which positively affected their IQ.

Lower socio-economic status was linked to more children having fast food, which led to lower intelligence.

Dr Sophie von Stumm, from the department of psychology at Goldsmiths, said: ‘It’s common sense that the type of food we eat will affect brain development, but previous research has only looked at the effects of specific food groups on children’s IQ rather than at generic types of meals.


‘This research will go some way to providing hard evidence to support the various high-profile campaigns aimed at reducing the amount of fast food consumed by children in the UK.’

Dr von Stumm said her findings highlighted that differences in children’s meals were also a social problem. ‘Mothers and fathers from less privileged backgrounds often have less time to prepare a freshly cooked meal from scratch for their children,’ she said.

‘These children score lower on intelligence tests and often struggle in school.

‘Schools in less privileged areas must do even more to balance children’s diet, so that they can achieve their cognitive potential.

‘It shows that the freshness and quality of food matters more than just being full, in particular when children are young and developing.’

You are what you eat? Meal type, socio-economic status and cognitive ability in childhood

By Sophie von Stumm


The current study tests if the type of children's daily main meal (slow versus fast food) mediates the association of socioeconomic status (SES) with cognitive ability and cognitive growth in childhood. A Scottish birth cohort (Growing Up in Scotland) was assessed at ages 3 (N = 4512) and 5 years (N = 3833) on cognitive ability (i.e. vocabulary and picture similarities), SES, and the frequency of having slow and fast food main meals per week. SES was highly correlated at ages 3 and 5 years, while intelligence and the type of meal were only moderately associated across ages. SES at age 3 was positively related to ability at age 3 but not at age 5. The type of meals partially mediated the effects of SES on cognitive ability at ages 3 and 5, with more slow meals being associated with better cognitive performance.

Furthermore, a higher frequency of slow food meals were positively related to cognitive growth between ages 3 and 5 years, after adjusting for SES and prior cognitive ability; however, they only accounted for a negligible amount of the variance in cognitive change. Overall, slow food was associated with better cognitive ability and cognitive growth in childhood, albeit corresponding effect sizes were small.


Taking low dose of aspirin to prevent heart disease could slow down memory loss

Another study which ignores its own conclusions (highlighted).  I long ago noted in my own researchh career that "scientists" usually come to the conclusion they intended to come to, regardless of what their data shows

Taking a low dose of aspirin may help keep the brain young, claim researchers.  A study of older women taking low doses to prevent heart disease found it also helped preserve their memory.

Millions of Britons take aspirin on doctor’s orders to prevent heart problems.  Other research suggests it may cut the risk of cancer.

There have been conflicting results from studies about whether long-term use of Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin protects against declining brain power and dementia.

But research published in the online journal BMJ Open found regular low-dose aspirin did slow cognitive decline.

The five-year study at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, involved 681 women aged 70 to 92.  The majority of women were at high risk of heart disease and stroke.

Decline in brain power was found to be considerably less among those who took aspirin every day over the entire period.  It is thought the same effect would be found in men.

All the elderly women were put through tests to measure their physical health and intellectual capacity, including verbal fluency and memory speed, and dementia.

A group of 129 women were taking low dose aspirin (75 to 160 mg) every day to ward off a heart attack or stroke when the study started. A further 94 were taking various other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Their health was tracked over five years, at the end of which the intellectual capacity of 489 women was assessed again.

The mini-mental state examination (MMSE) score fell, on average, across the whole group at the end of the five years, but this decline was considerably less in the 66 women who had taken aspirin every day over the entire period.

The researchers then divided up the group into those who had taken aspirin for the entire five years (66); those who had stopped taking it by 2005-6 (18); those who were taking it by 2005-6 (67); and those who hadn’t taken the drug at any point (338).

Compared with women who had not taken aspirin at all, those who had done so for all five years, increased their MMSE score, while those who had taken aspirin at some point, registered only insignificant falls in MMSE score.

There were no differences, however, in the rate at which the women developed dementia.

The scientists say aspirin’s protective effect may be due to its anti-clotting action helping to improve blood flow to the brain.

Professor Clive Ballard, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘It is a potential additional benefit.  However aspirin does have a number of potentially serious side-effects with long-term use and shouldn’t be taken for long periods unless prescribed by a doctor.’

The author of the research paper, which was published in the online journal BMJ Open, expressed caution over the observational study as the MMSE can detect subtle changes in cognitive ability.

Dr Anne-Borjesson-Hanson University of Gothenburg in Sweden, said: 'The findings indicate that aspirin may protect the brain, at least in women at high risk of a heart attack or stroke.'


4 October, 2012

Could statins cut glaucoma risk?

The usual epidemiological garbage.  You have to be pretty robust to cope with statins and it is that robustness which lies behind other desirable health outcomes

Taking a daily statin to lower cholesterol levels could reduce the risk of developing glaucoma in tens of thousands of elderly people.

Scientists found the risk of developing the eye condition was eight per cent lower among those who took statins for at least two years, compared to those who did not take them.

They believe statins could improved blood flow to parts of the eye and reduce high pressure inside the eye, which can trigger glaucoma.

Medics discovered the association after looking at results from more than 300,000 Americans over 60. The research is published in the journal Ophthalmology.

Glaucoma is disease of the optic nerve that, left untreated, can cause vision loss or blindness. It is often associated with high intraocular (eye) pressure, although there are other causes.

About 500,000 people in Britain are diagnosed with it, but an additional 1.7 million are at risk.

Dr Joshua Stein, of Michigan University, said: "Statins' apparent ability to reduce glaucoma risk may be due to several factors, including improved blood flow to the optic nerve and retinal nerve cells and enhanced outflow of the aqueous fluid, which may reduce intraocular pressure.

"While more research is needed, we hope our results may contribute to saving the sight of thousands who are predisposed to glaucoma."

But David Wright, chief executive of the International Glaucoma Association, warned the study far from proved statins lowered the risk. Strict randomised controlled trials were needed to test the theory, he said.  "I’d love it to be the case, but we can’t say statins do lower the chance of glaucoma at the moment,” he concluded.


Spotless homes don't make for unhealthy kids

I have been saying this for years -- JR

Mothers and fathers have one less reason to drop the mop and hide the Hoover from today - because scientists have debunked a popular modern theory that living in clean homes harms children’s health.

In recent years the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ has become an acceptable excuse to leave the house in a condition that could be described as ’lived-in’.

The theory holds that lack of exposure to common microbes, caused by living in spotless homes, means children’s immune systems do not develop as they should. This could explain large rises in asthma and other allergic conditions, it contends.

First proposed in a British Medical Journal article in 1989, it has almost reached the status of received wisdom.

But now microbiologists say the theory is wrong. A new scientific report, examining more than 20 years of research, concludes the hygiene hypothesis is not supported by the evidence.

Sally Bloomfield, honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said: "The underlying theory that microbial exposure is crucial to regulating the immune system is right.

"But the idea that children who have fewer infections, because of more hygienic homes, are then more likely to develop asthma and other allergies does not hold up.”

She is presenting the report with colleagues today at the national conference of the Infection Prevention Society in Liverpool.

Dr Rosalind Stanwell-Smith, also from the LSHTM, said: "Allergies and chronic inflammatory diseases are serious health issues and it’s time we recognised that simplistically talking about home and personal cleanliness as the cause of the problem is ill-advised.

"It’s diverting attention from finding workable solutions and the true, probably much more complex, causes.”

However, Graham Rook, emeritus professor of medical microbiology at University College London, has proposed an alternative version of the theory.

His ‘Old Friends’ thesis contends that lack of exposure to microbes that have been familiar to humans since the Stone Age is really responsible.

He said modern homes had a less diverse mix of microbes than rural homes of the past. But he said the amount of cleaning we do of the places we now live makes little difference.


3 October, 2012

Say cheese! Full fat dairy products may reduce heart attack deaths (?)

This is an excellent example of  how misleading statistics based on extreme groups (usually quintiles) can be.  The extreme  groups result and the result using all the data give opposite conclusions.  I will stick with ALL the data.  In which case there is no relationship between intake of dairy products and cause of death.

But it is self-report data anyway so is very weak as evidence of anything

A new Australian study has found that eating full-fat dairy may reduce the risk of cardiovascular-related death.

Dr Jolieke van der Pols from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) Cancer and Population Studies Group said this is a surprising but not unfounded result.  'There are other studies that suggest that certain fats in dairy may be protective for cardiovascular disease,' Dr van der Pols said.

'We found that people with the highest intake of full-fat dairy had 70 per cent less chance of death by heart disease or stroke than those who had the lowest intake of full-fat dairy.'

'It is possible that milk fat may contain nutrients that counteract the expected negative effects of the saturated fat in dairy products.'

Scientists surveyed more than 1500 Australians about their dairy intake over 16 years and found total intake of dairy products was not associated with cardiovascular death.

The study also found that total dairy intake had no correlation to death due to cancer or overall risk of death.

The paper will be published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 64, 569-577

Dairy consumption and patterns of mortality of Australian adults

M Bonthuis et al.


Dairy foods contain various nutrients that may affect health. We investigated whether intake of dairy products or related nutrients is associated with mortality due to cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer and all causes.


We carried out a 16-year prospective study among a community-based sample of 1529 adult Australians aged 25–78 years at baseline. Habitual intakes of dairy products (total, high/low-fat dairy, milk, yoghurt and full-fat cheese), calcium and vitamin D were estimated as mean reported intake using validated food frequency questionnaires (FFQs) self-administered in 1992, 1994 and 1996. National Death Index data were used to ascertain mortality and cause of death between 1992 and 2007. Hazard ratios (HRs) were calculated using Cox regression analysis.


During an average follow-up time of 14.4 years, 177 participants died, including 61 deaths due to CVD and 58 deaths due to cancer. There was no consistent and significant association between total dairy intake and total or cause-specific mortality. However, compared with those with the lowest intake of full-fat dairy, participants with the highest intake (median intake 339?g/day) had reduced death due to CVD (HR: 0.31; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.12–0.79; P for trend=0.04) after adjustment for calcium intake and other confounders. Intakes of low-fat dairy, specific dairy foods, calcium and vitamin D showed no consistent associations.


Overall intake of dairy products was not associated with mortality. A possible beneficial association between intake of full-fat dairy and cardiovascular mortality needs further assessment and confirmation.


New 'smart' breast cancer drug gives an extra six months of life and stops loss of hair

A huge amount of work has obviously gone into this and it  sounds like an advance but initial trials often give that impression.  Whether it gives better results than the control in later trials will be the real test.  Patients are getting some pretty toxic stuff with it

Brits will probably not get it anyway if past NHS policies are any guide

A new ‘smart’ drug for breast cancer extends women’s lives by six months while reducing toxic side effects including hair loss.

Campaigners claim the drug offers a ‘precious lifeline’ for women with the most aggressive form of the disease, who have tried other treatments.

Known as T-DM1, it combines the ‘wonder’ drug Herceptin with a potent chemotherapy agent.  T-DM1 is designed to seek out and destroy cancerous cells while sparing healthy tissue from unnecessary damage.

Results from a major trial show the drug prolonged the lives of patients with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer by 30.9 months compared with 25.1 months on standard therapy.  Patients on T-DM1 had fewer, less severe side effects and reported a better quality of life.

The results were released yesterday at the European Society for Medical Oncology in Vienna, Austria.

Around 10,000 British women have HER-2 positive breast cancer diagnosed each year – about one in five of those affected.
new blood is on the way

Paul Ellis, professor of cancer medicine at King’s College London, said the trial results were remarkable in patients with advanced  disease who had relapsed on existing treatment.

‘HER-2 positive breast cancer is very aggressive and once it progresses to the "advanced” stage it becomes very difficult to treat,’ he said.  ‘These results are truly outstanding and will positively alter the outlook and outcomes for patients.’

Professor Ellis said the drug was possibly the biggest advance since Herceptin was licensed for use in 2000.

‘T-DM1 contains an extremely potent form of chemotherapy that’s been around 20 years which we haven’t been able to use before because it’s so toxic,’ he said.  ‘Clever new technology has allowed these two older drugs to be linked so that the chemotherapy  is not released until it reaches  the target.

‘Drugs used at this stage of the disease often make women feel worse, but the beauty of this treatment is that it costs women fewer side effects such as hair loss and improves their quality of life.’

T-DM1 seeks out and destroys cancerous cells in a two-stage attack. It attaches to the tumour cell and blocks signals that encourage the cancer to spread.  Then it breaches the outer defences and releases chemotherapy to destroy it from within. This spares healthy tissue from unnecessary damage.

The cancer’s return is also delayed and side effects from chemotherapy such as diarrhoea and hair loss are significantly reduced.

Professor Ellis, who also works at Guy’s Hospital, London, said around 1,000 women a year would benefit from the drug in the UK after relapsing.

But eventually it might be used before the disease spread possibly replacing current treatment using Herceptin and chemotherapy as separate agents.

It was possible the technology could be effective in treating other types of tumour.

The drug’s manufacturer, Roche, is applying for a licence in Europe, which could mean it is available for patients before the end of 2013. The price is not yet known.

Baroness Morgan, chief executive of the research charity Breast  Cancer Campaign, said: ‘This "smart” drug could be a precious lifeline for women with HER2- positive advanced breast cancer who currently have limited treatment options. We hope it will be made available to women as early as possible.’

Carolyn Rogers, senior clinical nurse specialist at another charity, Breast Cancer Care, said: ‘The trial evaluates a new way of combining chemotherapy and targeted therapy in one agent which could help delay the progression of secondary breast cancer as well as reduce the likelihood of some of the very unpleasant side effects that are associated with chemotherapy.’


2 October, 2012

Video games as an "addiction"

This rubbish has been going on for years.  Video games are popular with kids so *therefore* they must be bad.  For kids with other problems they may seem so but most kids are fine.  They just exchange older recreations such as book reading for new recreations.  I used to read 3 books a week when I was a kid.  Was I addicted to books?   My son was allowed to play all the video games he liked when he was a kid but as an adult he is socially popular and has a first class B.Sc. in mathematics.  How come if computer games are so bad?

One swallow doesn't make a summer but it is notable that the enemies of games also quote isolated examples only.  The available proof of mass harm is ZERO.  It is all just opinion

Children addicted to using electronic devices 24/7 will be diagnosed with a serious mental illness if a new addiction, included as "internet-use disorder" in a worldwide psychiatric manual, is confirmed by further research.

The formal inclusion of the new addiction has been welcomed by Australian psychology professionals in response to a wave of "always-on" technology engulfing kids.

The Sun-Herald has spoken to parents of children as young as seven who are aggressive, irritable and hostile when deprived of their iPads or laptops. Psychologists argue video game and internet addictions share the characteristics of other addictions, including emotional shutdown, lack of concentration and withdrawal symptoms if the gadgets are removed.

Other fallout can include devastating impacts for children and families as social interaction and even food are neglected in favour of the virtual worlds the children inhabit.

Australian experts contributed to the Australian Psychological Society's submission to the international manual, supporting the inclusion of an addiction focused on internet gaming.

In recognition of threats posed by increasingly prevalent electronic devices, the bible for the psychiatric profession, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), will include internet-use disorder as a condition "recommended for further study" in its revised edition in May next year.

The inclusion acknowledges risks posed by over-use of seemingly benign technologies, classifying internet-use disorder alongside other mental disorders that need further research before becoming a recognised mental illness that can be formally diagnosed.

Commentary in the United States about the move has raised the spectre of children being over-treated and even medicated for playing computer games.

But some Australian psychologists argue there should be an even broader diagnosis of internet-use addiction, allowing proper treatment of children obsessed by other technologies such as texting and a proliferation of devices such as iPads, tablets and Nintendo DS.

Reflecting problems with children's over-use of technology, Mike Kyrios from Swinburne University of Technology - one of the authors of the APS submission and a clinical psychologist with more than 15 years experience - is formally pushing for the revised manual to broaden internet-use disorder beyond gaming addictions.

Professor Kyrios says once more research is invested in the disorder, it would allow health professionals to diagnose children with addictive behaviours from technology overuse and treat them appropriately, including strategies to change their obsessive over-reliance on being connected.

"With kids, gaming is an obvious issue. But overall, technology use could be a potential problem," he said.

Professor Kyrios said children with underlying obsessive compulsive disorders could be at risk from technology overuse.

Kara Wright was so concerned her 12-year-old son, Jack, had an internet addiction, she banned him from using the laptop over school holidays.

After playing the computer game Minecraft for an hour on his laptop, Jack would become frustrated, angry and often cry, Ms Wright said.

"It is only when he is using technology that those emotions emerge," Ms Wright, who lives Caloundra in Queensland, said. "It had a huge impact on the family."

Her first attempt to address the problem was to limit Jack to a one-hour time limit. When that didn't work, Ms Wright enforced a full ban.

In January, Emil Hodzic, a qualified psychologist with seven years experience, established a video game addiction treatment clinic in Sydney's CBD, because of what he saw as growing demand from frustrated parents and damaged children. He said he was seeing clients as young as 12 addicted to the internet and video games.

"The most typical sign of addiction is anything that looks like withdrawal symptoms," he said. "So any expression of distress, frustration, irritability when they don't get to play."

Mr Hodzic said about 70 per cent of his clients were children and teenagers, with many showing addiction symptoms closely related to anxiety and depression. "A lot of kids I have coming into the clinic have difficultly in being able to tolerate distress without zoning out via the internet or via the games," he said.

But psychiatrist Rhoshel Lenroot, the chairman of child psychiatry at the University of NSW, said it was still too early to know how detrimental technology overuse could be. "I think [it] can be dangerous in not learning how to pay attention in a focused way, but in balance there is nothing wrong with technology."


Simple scratch could double success of IVF treatment

This does sound like a huge advance

A straightforward 15-minute procedure costing less than £100 could double the success rates of IVF.  British researchers found that gently scratching the lining of the womb a month before IVF treatment improved the chances of pregnancy. A review of research on the technique found that twice as many women became pregnant after the procedure than without, boosting pregnancy rates to almost one in two.

Doctors at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital, central London, are carrying out a larger trial to establish the overall efficacy of the technique with the hope of offering it routinely within three to five years.

It is thought that scratching the womb lining stimulates growth factors and repair mechanisms that allow the fertilised egg to embed more easily.

It takes only 15 minutes in clinic, can be carried out by trained nurses and uses simple equipment already in use. The procedure may add less than £100 to the average £4,500 cost of a cycle of IVF treatment.

Dr Tarek El-Toukhy, who led the review study, said: "Endometrial scratching uses simple, inexpensive equipment that most hospitals already have and which clinicians are already trained to use, so complications are rare.

"It’s exciting that the chance of pregnancy could be doubled. The next step is to see if this applies to birth rates. About a third of IVF treatments result in a baby, so improving these odds would make a big difference to people trying to have children through IVF.”

The findings from the review of eight studies involving 911 patients are published in Reproductive Biomedicine online.

In the review, 128 out of 499 women who did not have the womb procedure became pregnant — almost 26 per cent. Of the 412 women who had the procedure, 198 fell pregnant, or 48 per cent.

There were no serious side effects reported and early signs are that the doubling in rates will be translated into birth rates.

The women in the study had all suffered repeated unexplained implantation failure, meaning other aspects of their fertility seemed normal but the egg did not implant properly in the womb.

Maha Ragunath, the clinical director of Care Nottingham, the biggest private provider of fertility treatment in England, said the technique should be offered widely to all IVF patients in the near future. She has begun carrying out the procedure for patients who have suffered repeated failed cycles of IVF.

"This is really priming the womb to receive the embryo,” she said. "It is a bit like having a smear test for cervical cancer. It is very quick and simple.

"I think any doctor reading the review would want to at least talk to their patients about this procedure.

"There is obviously something to be gained from it, no long-term damage and it is so inexpensive, so why not?”


1 October, 2012

Obama School Lunch Standards: Spartan Rationing, Tossed Leftovers

It takes Leftists to create a "Hunger-Free Kids Act" that leaves kids hungry who weren't hungry before

The new school year is only a few weeks old, but it’s already becoming clear that the federal government’s new school lunch guidelines are about as popular as the NFL’s replacement referees.

After published a recent article about how the Obama administration’s new calorie limitations for school lunches are leaving many American students hungry (especially high school athletes), a concerned food service worker from a western Montana school district contacted us with news about how the guidelines are impacting her students.

She only agreed to an interview on the condition of anonymity.

According to our source, the new federal guidelines require vegetables to comprise the largest portion of a student’s lunch, while the entrée is now being treated as a side dish. That means a lot more of the stuff most kids don’t eat and just a tiny portion of the palatable item.

"It’s completely flip-flopped in terms of portion size,” our source says. "I’m appalled at the serving sizes we’re required to give high school students.”

Even though some kids may be leaving the lunch room hungry, the new Obama-imposed rules prohibit students from receiving additional helpings, even when there’s food left over.

"We’re told we cannot serve seconds, that we cannot save leftover food for the next day. We must throw it away,” our source says. "What a waste for hungry kids who aren’t getting enough to eat to begin with.”

She feels especially bad for high school athletes who rapidly burn through calories.  "Two ounces of protein won’t cut it for high school athletes,” she notes.

But the heavy hand of Big Brother is affecting more than the portion sizes at the local school.

While state and federal bureaucrats have always required food service workers keep extensive records of what’s being served, the overall amount of paperwork has exploded with the new Obama administration requirements, according to our source.

"We have to keep an enormous amount of paperwork, about serving sizes, food temperatures, labels, on and on,” our source says. "The new forms are more complex, ask for more information that’s just being duplicated on other forms. (Food service workers) are all collecting the same data for reports that sit in a file drawer and never get looked at.”

Our source believes the new government-required paperwork consumes so much of the employees’ time that it is driving up labor costs for the school district, which serves a low-income community.

"I fail to understand how any of this helps educate children,” she says.

The controversy surrounding the school lunch program stems from "The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act,” which was passed by Congress in late 2010.

On Dec. 2, 2010, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a press release announcing the practical effects of the new law.

Vilsack wrote that the new law will improve "the nutritional quality of all food in schools by providing (the) USDA with the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools, including vending machines, the ‘a la carte’ lunch lines, and school stores.”

The federal government is using its new power to impose "calorie maximums for school lunches – 650 calories for elementary-schoolers, 700 for middle-schoolers and 850 for high-schoolers,” reports The Star-Telegram.

Another source – who also requested anonymity – informs that the federal government is using the power of the purse strings to win school compliance with the new law. Our source says the government only reimburses school districts for student lunches if every tray meets certain nutritional requirements set forth by the USDA.

Rep. Steve King (R – Iowa) has seen enough and wants to repeal the new Obama administration lunch rules.

"For the first time in history, the USDA has set a calorie limit on school lunches,” King said recently, according to The Hill. "The goal of the school lunch program was – and is – to ensure students receive enough nutrition to be healthy and to learn.

"The misguided nanny state, as advanced by Michelle Obama’s ‘Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act,’ was interpreted by Secretary Vilsack to be a directive that, because some kids are overweight, he would put every child on a diet. Parents know that their kids deserve all of the healthy and nutritious food they want,” King said.

Vilsack’s plan of slimming down America’s students seems to have a glaring deficiency: If school lunches continue to leave kids hungry, parents will simply pack them a more calorie-rich lunch at home, while older kids who attend schools with open campuses will gravitate to nearby fast food restaurants.

Perhaps Vilsack and other nanny state politicians are already working on the next phase of their plan, which might include checking students’ homemade lunches.

In February, a North Carolina school made national headlines when it was revealed that a lunch inspector told a 4-year-old girl that her homemade turkey sandwich, banana, potato chips and apple juice were unhealthy and that she needed to eat a USDA-approved school lunch.

Fox News reported that when the girl returned home from school with her unopened lunch, it "contained a note from the school saying that her lunch didn’t meet the guidelines and a $1.25 bill for the replacement lunch.”

Nanny state progressives might also follow the lead of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has banned large-sized sugary drinks and the use of trans fats, and has imposed strict reductions in the amount of salt contained in packaged and restaurant food, reports CNN.


Michelle Obama’s Bumbling Bureaucrats: Let Them Eat Snacks!

"Snacking" is widely condemned in the weight-loss industry

In response to the growing outrage over the one-size-fits-all, top-down lunch menu regulations handed down by Michelle Obama and bureaucrats in Washington, DC, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack offered an incredible response: Let them eat snacks!

Translation: no need to evaluate the program that is being met with dissatisfaction from coast-to-coast. We’ll just create another program.

ABC News reports:

"It's not surprising that some youngsters will in the middle of the day be hungry,” Vilsack told ABC News, responding to the controversy. "I remember my two boys when they came back from school they were always hungry, we always had snacks prepared for them.”

Vilsack said the Obama Administration is working with school districts to create snack programs and encouraging parents to pack extra food for their active students to munch on before football practice or band rehearsal.

Why not just give them enough to eat at lunch?

"’We understand that change is difficult,’ Vilsack said. ‘Some folks love it, some folks have had questions about it, but that's to be expected when you're dealing with 32 million children and you're dealing with over a hundred thousand school districts.’"

So Vilsack’s answer to upset students in Wisconsin: eat a snack. The same message goes for hungry kids who have spoken out in South Dakota and Massachusetts: eat a snack. And the school cafeteria worker in Montana who dared to question the program: serve the food and pipe down.

Apparently the government is not interested in listening to the people about the problem it’s created. But what else is new?


SITE MOTTO: "Epidemiology is mostly bunk"

Where it is not bunk is when it shows that some treatment or influence has no effect on lifespan or disease incidence. It is as convincing as disproof as it is unconvincing as proof. Think about it. As Einstein said: No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.

Epidemiological studies are useful for hypothesis-generating or for hypothesis-testing of theories already examined in experimental work but they do not enable causative inferences by themselves

The standard of reasoning that one commonly finds in epidemiological journal articles is akin to the following false syllogism:
Chairs have legs
You have legs
So therefore you are a chair


1). A good example of an epidemiological disproof concerns the dreaded salt (NaCl). We are constantly told that we eat too much salt for good health and must cut back our consumption of it. Yet there is one nation that consumes huge amounts of salt. So do they all die young there? Quite the reverse: Japan has the world's highest concentration of centenarians. Taste Japan's favourite sauce -- soy sauce -- if you want to understand Japanese salt consumption. It's almost solid salt.

2). We need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. So the conventional wisdom is not only wrong. It is positively harmful

3). Table salt is a major source of iodine, which is why salt is normally "iodized" by official decree. Cutting back salt consumption runs the risk of iodine deficiency, with its huge adverse health impacts -- goiter, mental retardation etc. GIVE YOUR BABY PLENTY OF SALTY FOODS -- unless you want to turn it into a cretin

4). Our blood has roughly the same concentration of salt as sea-water so claims that the body cannot handle high levels of salt were always absurd

5). The latest academic study shows that LOW salt in your blood is most likely to lead to heart attacks. See JAMA. 2011;305(17):1777-1785. More here on similar findings

PEANUTS: There is a vaccination against peanut allergy -- peanuts themselves. Give peanut products (e.g. peanut butter -- or the original "Bamba" if you have Israeli contacts) to your baby as soon as it begins to take solid foods and that should immunize it for life. See here and here (scroll down). It's also possible (though as yet unexamined) that a mother who eats peanuts while she is lactating may confer some protection on her baby

THE SIDE-EFFECT MANIA. If a drug is shown to have troublesome side-effects, there are always calls for it to be banned or not authorized for use in the first place. But that is insane. ALL drugs have side effects. Even aspirin causes stomach bleeding, for instance -- and paracetamol (acetaminophen) can wreck your liver. If a drug has no side effects, it will have no main effects either. If you want a side-effect-free drug, take a homeopathic remedy. They're just water.

Although I am an atheist, I have never wavered from my view that the New Testament is the best guide to living and I still enjoy reading it. Here is what the apostle Paul says about vegetarians: "For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth." (Romans 14: 2.3). What perfect advice! That is real tolerance: Very different from the dogmatism of the food freaks. Interesting that vegetarianism is such an old compulsion, though.

Even if we concede that getting fat shortens your life, what right has anybody got to question someone's decision to accept that tradeoff for themselves? Such a decision could be just one version of the old idea that it is best to have a short life but a merry one. Even the Bible is supportive of that thinking. See Ecclesiastes 8:15 and Isaiah 22: 13. To deny the right to make such a personal decision is plainly Fascistic.

Fatties actually SAVE the taxpayer money

IQ: Political correctness makes IQ generally unmentionable so it is rarely controlled for in epidemiological studies. This is extremely regrettable as it tends to vitiate findings that do not control for it. When it is examined, it is routinely found to have pervasive effects. We read, for instance, that "The mother's IQ was more highly predictive of breastfeeding status than were her race, education, age, poverty status, smoking, the home environment, or the child's birth weight or birth order". So political correctness can render otherwise interesting findings moot

That hallowed fish oil is strongly linked to increased incidence of colon cancer

The "magic" ingredient in fish oil is omega-3 fatty acids (n-3 LCPUFA in medical jargon). So how do you think the research finding following was reported? "No differences were seen in the overall percentage of infants with immunoglobulin E associated allergic disease between the n-3 LCPUFA and control groups. It was reported as SUPPORTING the benefits of Omeda-3! Belief in Omega-3 is simply a cult and, like most cults, is impervious to disproof. See also here.

"To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact" -- Charles Darwin

"Most men die of their remedies, not of their diseases", said Moliere. That may no longer be true in general but there is still a lot of false medical "wisdom" around that does harm to various degrees -- the statin and antioxidant fads, for instance. And showing its falsity is rarely the problem. The problem is getting people -- medical researchers in particular -- to abandon their preconceptions

Bertrand Russell could have been talking about today's conventional dietary "wisdom" when he said: "The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.”

Eating lots of fruit and vegetables is NOT beneficial

The great and fraudulent scare about lead

The challenge, as John Maynard Keynes knew, "lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones".

"Obesity" is 77% genetic. So trying to make fatties slim is punishing them for the way they were born. That sort of thing is furiously condemned in relation to homosexuals so why is it OK for fatties?


Some more problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize dietary fat. But Eskimos living on their traditional diet eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. At any given age they in fact have an exceptionally LOW incidence of cardiovascular disease. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

9). And how odd it is that we never hear of the huge American study which showed that women who eat lots of veggies have an INCREASED risk of stomach cancer? So the official recommendation to eat five lots of veggies every day might just be creating lots of cancer for the future! It's as plausible (i.e. not very) as all the other dietary "wisdom" we read about fat etc.

10). And will "this generation of Western children be the first in history to lead shorter lives than their parents did"? This is another anti-fat scare that emanates from a much-cited editorial in a prominent medical journal that said so. Yet this editorial offered no statistical basis for its opinion -- an opinion that flies directly in the face of the available evidence.

11). A major cause of increasing obesity is certainly the campaign against it -- as dieting usually makes people FATTER. If there were any sincerity to the obesity warriors, they would ban all diet advertising and otherwise shut up about it. Re-authorizing now-banned school playground activities and school outings would help too. But it is so much easier to blame obesity on the evil "multinationals" than it is to blame it on your own restrictions on the natural activities of kids

12. Fascism: "What we should be doing is monitoring children from birth so we can detect any deviations from the norm at an early stage and action can be taken". Who said that? Joe Stalin? Adolf Hitler? Orwell's "Big Brother"? The Spanish Inquisition? Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde? None of those. It was Dr Colin Waine, chairman of Britain's National Obesity Forum. What a fine fellow!


Trans fats: For one summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and the evidence of lasting harm from them is dubious. By taking extreme groups in trans fats intake, some weak association with coronary heart disease has at times been shown in some sub-populations but extreme group studies are inherently at risk of confounding with other factors and are intrinsically of little interest to the average person.

The "antioxidant" religion: The experimental evidence is that antioxidants SHORTEN your life, if anything. Studies here and here and here and here and here and here and here, for instance. That they are of benefit is a great theory but it is one that has been coshed by reality plenty of times.

Controlling serum cholesterol does not of itself reduce cardiovascular disease. It may even in fact increase it

The absurdity of using self-report questionnaires as a diet record

PASSIVE SMOKING is unpleasant but does you no harm. See here and here and here and here and here and here and here

The medical consensus is often wrong. The best known wrongheaded medical orthodoxy is that stomach ulcers could not be caused by bacteria because the stomach is so acidic. Disproof of that view first appeared in 1875 (Yes. 1875) but the falsity of the view was not widely recognized until 1990. Only heroic efforts finally overturned the consensus and led to a cure for stomach ulcers. See here and here and here.

Contrary to the usual assertions, some big studies show that fat women get LESS breast cancer. See also here and here

NOTE: "No trial has ever demonstrated benefits from reducing dietary saturated fat".

Huge ($400 million) clinical trial shows that a low fat diet is useless . See also here and here

Dieticians are just modern-day witch-doctors. There is no undergirding in double-blind studies for their usual recommendations

The fragility of current medical wisdom: Would you believe that even Old Testament wisdom can sometimes trump medical wisdom? Note this quote: "Spiess discussed Swedish research on cardiac patients that compared Jehovah's Witnesses who refused blood transfusions to patients with similar disease progression during open-heart surgery. The research found those who refused transfusions had noticeably better survival rates.

Relying on the popular wisdom can certainly hurt you personally: "The scientific consensus of a quarter-century ago turned into the arthritic nightmare of today."

Medical wisdom can in fact fly in the face of the known facts. How often do we hear reverent praise for the Mediterranean diet? Yet both Australians and Japanese live longer than Greeks and Italians, despite having very different diets. The traditional Australian diet is in fact about as opposite to the Mediterranean diet as you can get. The reverence for the Mediterranean diet can only be understood therefore as some sort of Anglo-Saxon cultural cringe. It is quite brainless. Why are not the Australian and Japanese diets extolled if health is the matter at issue?

Since many of my posts here make severe criticisms of medical research, I should perhaps point out that I am also a severe critic of much research in my own field of psychology. See here and here

This is NOT an "alternative medicine" site. Perhaps the only (weak) excuse for the poorly substantiated claims that often appear in the medical literature is the even poorer level of substantiation offered in the "alternative" literature.

I used to teach social statistics in a major Australian university and I find medical statistics pretty obfuscatory. They seem uniformly designed to make mountains out of molehills. Many times in the academic literature I have excoriated my colleagues in psychology and sociology for going ga-ga over very weak correlations but what I find in the medical literature makes the findings in the social sciences look positively muscular. In fact, medical findings are almost never reported as correlations -- because to do so would exhibit how laughably trivial they generally are. If (say) 3 individuals in a thousand in a control group had some sort of an adverse outcome versus 4 out of a thousand in a group undergoing some treatment, the difference will be published in the medical literature with great excitement and intimations of its importance. In fact, of course, such small differences are almost certainly random noise and are in any rational calculus unimportant. And statistical significance is little help in determining the importance of a finding. Statistical significance simply tells you that the result was unlikely to be an effect of small sample size. But a statistically significant difference could have been due to any number of other randomly-present factors.

Even statistical correlations far stronger than anything found in medical research may disappear if more data is used. A remarkable example from Sociology: below:
"The modern literature on hate crimes began with a remarkable 1933 book by Arthur Raper titled The Tragedy of Lynching. Raper assembled data on the number of lynchings each year in the South and on the price of an acre's yield of cotton. He calculated the correlation coefficient between the two series at -0.532. In other words, when the economy was doing well, the number of lynchings was lower.... In 2001, Donald Green, Laurence McFalls, and Jennifer Smith published a paper that demolished the alleged connection between economic conditions and lynchings in Raper's data. Raper had the misfortune of stopping his analysis in 1929. After the Great Depression hit, the price of cotton plummeted and economic conditions deteriorated, yet lynchings continued to fall. The correlation disappeared altogether when more years of data were added."
So we must be sure to base our conclusions on ALL the data. But in medical research, data selectivity and the "overlooking" of discordant research findings is epidemic.

The intellectual Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) could have been speaking of the prevailing health "wisdom" of today when he said: "The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane."

The Federal Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, Second Edition says (p. 384): "the threshold for concluding that an agent was more likely than not the cause of an individual's disease is a relative risk greater than 2.0." Very few of the studies criticized on this blog meet that criterion.

Improbable events do happen at random -- as mathematician John Brignell notes rather tartly:
"Consider, instead, my experiences in the village pub swindle. It is based on the weekly bonus ball in the National Lottery. It so happens that my birth date is 13, so that is the number I always choose. With a few occasional absences abroad I have paid my pound every week for a year and a half, but have never won. Some of my neighbours win frequently; one in three consecutive weeks. Furthermore, I always put in a pound for my wife for her birth date, which is 11. She has never won either. The probability of neither of these numbers coming up in that period is less than 5%, which for an epidemiologist is significant enough to publish a paper.

Kids are not shy anymore. They are "autistic". Autism is a real problem but the rise in its incidence seems likely to be the product of overdiagnosis -- the now common tendency to medicalize almost all problems.

One of the great pleasures in life is the first mouthful of cold beer on a hot day -- and the food Puritans can stick that wherever they like